November 24, 2014

24 November 2014 Sharland

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and Sharland comes to call.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down fish for tea and her tummy pain is still there but decreasing.


Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch was a bomber pilot known as ‘The Bull’ who was the leading U-boat hunter of the Battle of the Atlantic

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch in front of his Liberator aircraft

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch in front of his Liberator aircraft

7:25PM GMT 23 Nov 2014


Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, who has died aged 98, was a pilot in Coastal Command who made the greatest number of sightings and attacks against German U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic. By the end of the war he had been credited with sinking four, twice the number by any other pilot.

Due to the lack of long-range aircraft in 1941 and early 1942, sinkings of Allied shipping by German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic had reached alarming proportions. The introduction into RAF service of the American-built B-24 Liberator finally closed this “Atlantic Gap” and gave added protection to the essential convoys sailing from North American ports to the United Kingdom.

In December 1942, Bulloch, known throughout Coastal Command as “The Bull”, was in charge of a small detachment of No 120 Squadron in Iceland and, by this time, he had already developed a reputation as one of the most determined and successful U-boat hunters. On December 8, he and his crew took off from Reykjavik in their Liberator to fly a convoy patrol; 16 hours later they landed after one of the most remarkable operational wartime flights by an RAF aircraft — its like would never be repeated.

Two large convoys had left Halifax in Nova Scotia and were approaching an area where naval intelligence estimated that a U-boat “Wolf Pack” of 14 submarines was lurking in wait (post-war analysis established that there were 22). Bulloch intercepted convoy HX 217 and took up a position astern to counter a known U-boat tactic of shadowing a convoy whilst others from the pack converged.

The weather was poor but Bulloch’s amazing eyesight picked up the wake of a surfaced U-boat and he dived to attack. The submarine commenced a crash dive but it was too late and Bulloch straddled it with six depth charges. There was a great upheaval of water and oil, wreckage and bodies soon floated to the surface. A Norwegian Navy corvette escorting the convoy investigated and confirmed the sinking.

Soon after this success, Bulloch spotted two more U-boats and he attacked one with his two remaining depth charges forcing the submarine to dive. This was Bulloch’s twenty-second sighting of a U-boat (he had attacked twelve) far more than most squadrons had achieved, or ever did. However, this unique flight was not over.

Before it was time for him to depart, Bulloch and his crew sighted another five submarines. With no depth charges remaining, he dived and attacked each with his four Hispano 20mm cannons. On every occasion he forced the submarines to dive and abandon their attacks.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, seated centre, with his outstanding Liberator crew

A second Liberator arrived to relieve Bulloch and it continued the attacks forcing five more U-boats to dive. The attackers had been thrown into disarray and their positions revealed to the escorting naval forces who engaged them. Just two of the 90 ships were lost from the convoys.

Bulloch was awarded a Bar to a DSO that had been gazetted four weeks earlier. Some of his outstanding crew were also decorated, including a DSO to his navigator and a DFM to the flight engineer.

The national press in the UK and in Canada gave extensive coverage to the events, with headlines of “The Bull gets a U-boat” and “Sub smashers win 5 awards in big convoy fight”. An official Coastal Command report concluded, “the convoys were brought safely to port in the face of the most determined opposition yet encountered”.

Terence Malcolm Bulloch was born February 19 1916 in Lisburn, County Antrim and he attended Campbell College Belfast where he was the piper sergeant major in the Officer Training Corps and an excellent rugby player.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1936 and trained as a pilot before flying Ansons in Coastal Command. By early 1940 he had transferred to No 206 Squadron to fly the twin-engined Hudson, patrolling the French, Dutch and Belgian coastal areas, including a number of hazardous trips during the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. He attacked and damaged a German floatplane forcing it to land on the sea where he then bombed it. He also bombed the Channel ports being used in Hitler’s preparations to invade England in September 1940.

At the end of the year, he was awarded the DFC, which was soon followed by a mention in despatches.

Rather than have a rest, Bulloch joined the RAF’s Ferry Command in Canada and flew four-engine bombers across the Atlantic to British airfields. On one occasion, flying a B-17 Fortress, he took just over eight hours to reach Prestwick in Scotland, a record flight across the Atlantic at that time.

With the arrival of the B-24 Liberators, some of which Bulloch had delivered, No 120 Squadron was formed at Nutts Corner, Belfast and Bulloch joined as a flight commander.

On October 21 1941, Bulloch made the squadron’s first attack against a U-boat but abandoned it briefly to attack a shadowing Focke Wulf 200 Kondor aircraft that was shadowing the convoy he was protecting. The Kondor left the area rapidly and Bulloch resumed his hunt for the submarine. He spotted a periscope and dived to attack with three depth charges. The attack was inconclusive and he was credited with a “damaged”.

Over the next nine months of patient patrolling, Bulloch made six more U-boat sightings. He damaged U-59 as it returned to Brest and, two days later, he seriously damaged U-653, forcing it to return to Brest where it spent six months being repaired.

In September he was in Iceland and on October 12 he achieved his, and the squadron’s, first confirmed “kill”. His depth charges virtually blew U-597 out of the water and it was last seen tipping vertically before disappearing.

Bulloch’s attack on the U-boat U-597 which he sank

Over the next two weeks he sighted and attacked four more submarines and on November 5 he sighted another two. Attacking one of them from bow to stern, his aim was accurate and his depth charges destroyed U-132. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC, the citation commenting, “his power of leadership is outstanding”.

After his memorable sortie of December 8, he became an instructor but took the opportunity to test new equipment, including a battery of eight rockets fitted to the nose of his aircraft. He was attached to No 224 Squadron and, on July 8 1943, he was on patrol near Cape Finisterre when he spotted the conning tower of a submarine in the wake of a fishing boat. He attacked and fired his eight rockets in pairs from fifty feet. He pulled up and re-attacked with his depth charges. U-514 outbound to South African waters was destroyed with all hands.

At the end of his tour, Bulloch refused to be rested and he joined a long-range transport squadron flying converted Liberators across the Atlantic. Later he flew with a special RAF transport squadron on routes across the Pacific. Towards the end of the war, he was seconded to BOAC and after his release from the RAF in July 1946 he joined the airline as a captain. He had logged over 4,500 flying hours by the time the war ended.

Bulloch joined BOAC’s prestigious Trans-Atlantic service and was to spend almost all his long career with BOAC and British Airways (BA) flying over the ocean he knew so well. Initially he flew converted bombers and progressed to the elegant Constellation and the less elegant Stratocruiser. He shunned all offers to be a training captain or to take on managerial duties. He simply wanted to keep flying and he spent many hours at the controls of the jet-powered Boeing 707 before moving on to the Boeing 747.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch

On reaching BA’s retirement age, he had flown across the Atlantic 1,113 times. His passion for flying had not diminished so he joined the Portuguese National Airline (TAP) and took command of a Boeing 707 and continued to fly routes across the Atlantic. He finally retired in 1974.

Bulloch was a man of few words but he had a great determination to attack the enemy and, when not flying, which was rare, he spent many hours studying the enemy’s tactics and capabilities. He insisted on total dedication and professionalism from his crew and he was an inspiring captain. Some thought him too forthright and terse but his knowledge, courage and skill, not to mention his unique record, were greatly admired. He had little time for authority and less for paperwork and bureaucracy but he was a man of compelling honesty and integrity.

After so much travelling for almost 40 years, in retirement he devoted himself to his garden and to his local golf club at Denham.

A colleague wrote his biography, Coastal Ace (1986).

Terry Bulloch first wife, Joan, died in 1969. His second wife, Linda, who he married in 1974, survives him.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, born February 19, 1916 , died November 13 2014



Heavens above! Emily Thornberry is the product of a working-class council estate. The true test of what she thinks about ordinary working people is to be found in the fact that after she joined the middle classes as a barrister, she joined the Labour Party, not the Conservatives. Her downfall, prompted by her tweeting a photo of a home decked in England flags, is her characteristically English wry sense of radical humour.

The “white van man’’ is a recent much-loved icon of an ironic English humour, which stretches from Hogarth to Mock the Week. Ms Thornberry’s image of the house, the van and the large St George flags is worthy of Hogarth. It signals her evident dismay that the voters of Rochester had fallen under the spell of a disingenuous, camouflaged, neo-Thatcherite tribute party, led by an enterprising former public schoolboy and former City trader, which has the £ sign in its title, suggesting a new country to be called “Poundland”.

Ms Thornberry was highly effective in dealing with Tory propagandists. Ordinary working- and lower-middle-class people need her badly to put the Labour Party case for a fairer and more rational Britain that represents their interests – something in which she clearly believes – rather than the pantomime pretences of Thatcherite Ukip.

On behalf of all working- and middle-class Britain I say, come back Emily Thornberry, we have need of thee!

Robert Faber

London N2

In his self-congratulatory column in Saturday’s Independent, Nigel Farage seems to have confused listening to the concerns of voters with pandering to their prejudices.

The problem is that politicians lack the courage to tell people the truth: that immigration has generally been beneficial for this country, that immigrants, especially those from the EU, are net contributors to our coffers, and that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster.

Quite why people think that having a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other is qualification for high political office is beyond me.

While Mr Farage’s simplistic pronouncements may garner votes in the short term, in the long term they will leave voters feeling even more disillusioned, a situation that could be avoided were leaders of other parties prepared to engage in proper debate.

Ian Richards


Amid all the discussions about which parties will gain or lose however many seats in next year’s election, and therefore who is likely to enter a coalition with whom, I have not yet encountered any discussion of the possibility that the only two-party coalition to command a majority in the House of Commons might be Labour and Tory.

What three-party coalition can be envisaged? Tory, SNP and anything? The SNP has already ruled out any deal with the Tories. Tory, Ukip and Lib Dem? You can’t see the last two together. Labour, Lib Dem and SNP seems at least plausible.

Tim Marshall


Analysis of the by-election in Rochester and Strood in terms of the whole electorate of the constituency shows that about two people in ten supported Mark Reckless, three in ten voted for other candidates and five in ten didn’t vote at all. This can hardly be construed as massive support for Ukip. Instead, it raises questions about the state of democracy in Britain today.

Maybe the Conservatives and Labour now regret their stance in the 2011 referendum on voting reform.

Mike Williams

Mathry, Pembrokeshire

Ukip sells the dream that we can turn back time to a green and pleasant land when Spitfires ruled the skies, before we sold off our major industries, and when we reaped the resources of our empire. But it’s all gone. It’s not coming back.

S Matthias

London SE1

I have just been listening to a phone-in on the radio. When a caller was asked why they supported Ukip, the reply was: “People in other EU countries don’t know what it is like to have their children in a classroom where no one speaks any English”. Quite.

Paul Devine

Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire

More wind farms may mean fewer pylons  Alistair Wood (letter, 22 November) says he doesn’t object to wind turbines as such, but does object to pylons. I am afraid the horse has bolted from that stable a long time ago.

The 275 and 400kV super-grid was built in the 1960s, as I recall. He may find it comforting that wind and other renewable sources are less intense sources of energy than conventional power stations and, if distributed widely, could reduce rather than increase the need for National Grid connections.  Indeed, some countries are encouraging local renewable generation, which could reduce it yet further.

I am puzzled by the suggestion that green arguments come from “town and city dwellers”. As it happens, I live in a village considerably smaller than Llanymynech, but that’s not the point. Climate change (and most of the other negative impacts of fossil fuel and nuclear generation) hits the countryside worst, and country dwellers should be (and many are) at least as concerned as city dwellers.

The pattern that I do see is that the most extreme Nimbys are those who have moved from town to country for the nice views and don’t want them spoilt.

Derek Chapman

Warnford, Hampshire

Bonuses merely incentivise risk

As a shareholder, I was recently invited to approve a remuneration package for a chief executive of £1.5m salary plus a bonus package that amounts to more than six times the annual salary. We need to bear in mind that the bankers and captains of industry who receive the bonuses are not entrepeneurs – they do not risk any of their own money, only ours.

Bonuses are wrong for three reasons. Firstly, most brain workers, including many of the employees of the company concerned, do not get offered a bonus and are expected to do their very best for their employer out of a sense of pride and integrity. If this incoming chief executive needs to be bribed with a massive bonus to behave likewise is he or she really the right person for the job?

Secondly, as leader of the team, how can the chief executive with a huge bonus demand, with a straight face, 100 per cent effort from his or her subordinates who are not on bonuses?

Worst of all, bonuses skew risk analysis. If the chief executive perceives that the only way he or she has a chance of making their bonus target is by taking wild risks, then there is no downside in taking them. If the risk fails, the chief executive is no worse off. Contrast the position of an entrepreneur who does risk his or her own money.

Yet we have seen our Tory Chancellor doing his very best to thwart a small effort by the European Union to curb this pernicious practice.

Tony Somers

London SW5

Wear your charitable giving with pride

Just about every week I disagree with Janet Street-Porter and today (22 November) is no exception. Every year I used to give to the Poppy Appeal but didn’t wear a poppy, but then the penny dropped – maybe people seeing my poppy would be reminded or prompted to give themselves.

She says: “Charitable giving has become another way of showing off, incorporating pointless records, wrist bands and ephemera.” Maybe that ephemera and showing off might just raise more money.

Steve Brewer


Safer Cars don’t mean safer driving

I read with interest the article relating to vehicle technology and safety improvements (“En route to even greater safety”, 18 November). The final paragraph observes: “Vehicle safety may have improved enormously,  but there’s still a lot of  work to do.”

I spent 30 years as a traffic patrol police officer, and have been involved in many aspects of road safety since, including speed awareness courses.

I would make the observation that the “work to do” should relate to our skills as a driver, the weakest link in the chain. Generally, our skill base is low, we seldom take additional driver training, we drive at inappropriate speeds, and fail to take responsibility for our actions.

By all means make our vehicles safer, but is it not time that more focus was placed upon the driver’s skills?

Richard Bratton


Did Canada get lost under the snow?

I see that the snow storms sweeping North America are only affecting the USA (“‘Historic’ early freeze sweeps across entire United States”, 20 November). Looking at your maps they stop at its northern border. I assume that the land above wasn’t affected? Or is that country of so little consequence it was not worth mentioning?

David Postlethwaite

Swanage, Dorse


Sir, Richard Kemp argues that a lifting of the restriction on women serving in infantry units will damage the fighting capabilities of the armed forces (“Female soldiers just lack the killer instinct”, Nov 18). He presented a popular mythology regarding women and combat.

The move to overturn the ban on women is long overdue, particularly given the track record of service women in Iraq and Afghanistan, generously acknowledged by Kemp, as well as experiences from other nations. Airing such tired opinions highlights the similarity of this argument to unsubstantiated claims and stereotypes cited in previous objections to ending discrimination based on race and sexuality. Diversity in all forms represents a positive force for modern militaries.

The link between the armed forces and society can only be strengthened when the armed forces better reflect the society from which they are drawn.

It is beyond time to move the debate from whether women should be permitted to serve in all sectors of the military to how this can best be achieved.

The Ministry of Defence and the single services will need to foster a positive environment in order to recruit, motivate and retain the calibre of women they desire, and I recognise the difficulty in addressing the many impediments to integrating women into combat units.

The greatest challenge, however, lies with military commanders who will need to have the courage to overcome the prejudice and the bias of previous generations.

Vix Anderton
Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

Sir, Once again the matter of female military fighters in the British armed forces is raised without even Colonel Richard Kemp facing a most unpleasant fact: is anyone in policy making authority prepared to reflect on what would, particularly and undoubtedly happen (Islamic State style) to any captured females?

Female fighters may be cleared, formally or informally, to take their personal chances, but the effect on the fighting ability and morale of male force members — who will instinctively want to defend their female comrades — will be totally destructive.

Keep the ladies well away from the battlefield, please.

Roger Draper
Ruislip, Middlesex

Sir, Colonel Richard Kemp’s concern that women lack the killer instinct does not seem to apply in Vienna where you report that an ice-cream parlour proprietor shot dead two lovers as they didn’t live up to her requirements (News, Nov 18).

Dr John Doherty

Sir, I was about to launch a broadside against Richard Kemp’s rampant sexism and sweeping generalisations, but faced with compelling evidence that many young men have far too much of it, I’m relieved that at least one of the sexes supposedly lacks the killer instinct.

Hillary Crowe
Telford, Shropshire

Sir, If Colonel Richard Kemp is correct and frontline combat remains overwhelmingly based on hand-to-hand combat requiring the killer instinct found only in “few women”, then how does gender relate to the skills needed to direct air strikes? I am sure there are examples to support his view but are they really the general picture?

Richard Titchener
Maldon, Essex

Sir, Richard Kemp’s article is an insult to the memory of those women of the Second World War who fought in the SOE, in the Resistance and at Stalingrad.

Dr Shirley Summerskill
London NW6

Sir, A potential female soldier at interview when asked if she could kill a man, replied “Eventually”.
Don Evans
Inverness, Highland

Sir, For proof that some females have the killer instinct, just go to court martial records. There you will find examples of female service personnel who have been convicted of inflicting actual and grievous bodily harm (and worse) on their male colleagues.

Robert Steel
Salisbury, Wilts

Waxwings stay ahead of bad weather

Jack Hill/Times Newspapers

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Derwent May

Published at 12:01AM, November 24 2014

The annual invasion of waxwings from Scandinavia is beginning. These birds, about the size of a starling, get their name from a red blob like sealing-wax that they have on their wing. But this is not their most conspicuous feature, which is their jaunty, swept-back crest. They are also striking in other ways, with pinkish plumage, a black mask and bib, yellow bars next to the red blob on their wings, and a yellow-tipped tail. They are also very tame birds, coming down to feed on cotoneaster and other berries in the bushes that adorn roundabouts and supermarket car parks. They gobble up the berries very fast. Only a few of them, mostly ones and twos, have been seen so far, and these have been in Scotland and the eastern counties of England, though some had reached Wiltshire by yesterday. In the winter of 2008-09, there was an enormous invasion of them, which reached most of the country. A survey has been conducted at supermarkets in some years to see which had the most. Morrisons has generally been the winner. It is too early to say if there will be enough waxwings this winter to make a poll worth while.

Sir, After his party was beaten in Rochester, Matthew Parris (Opinion, Nov 22) again demonstrates that he has the nasty party instincts at heart. To effectively accuse 16,867 Ukip voters in Rochester of being identifiable with fascist blackshirts (there was even a picture of Mosley) is deeply offensive. I lost close family fighting Hitler’s fascists as did many in the Medway town’s front line.
Peter Mason-Apps
Knowl Hill, Berks

Sir, Labour continues to fight a class war while its core supporters are more concerned about loss of national identity (leading article, Nov 22).

This has as much to do with the influence of Brussels as immigration, and Ukip has exploited this to great effect. Emily Thornberry’s tweet merely makes matters worse.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Why is Nigel Farage always photographed with or near a glass of beer? How about a nice cup of tea for a change?
Estelle D Davis

Sir, Anybody having difficulty in pronouncing “Mx” (report, Nov 17, and letters) has not spent time reading Superman. I remember these comics in the 1960s, when there was a trickster from a different dimension called “Mr Mxyzptlk”. It gets worse. The only way to send him back to his own dimension was to trick him to say his name backwards. “Kltpzyxm”.
Dr Nigel Heard
Great Barrow, Chester

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein’s son is certainly many decades younger than me so I was puzzled by his reported use of the word “skills” to express approbation (Opinion, Nov 19). In my boyhood in the early 1940s “skill” — in the singular — did the job of the all-purpose “cool” relied on by today’s teenagers to express admiration of possessions and achievements. Was it local to my circle of friends? And what other such terms have been and gone over the years?
David Brancher
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, If M Hollande’s “discreet” dalliance merits two pages, and a leader column too (Nov 22), it is alarming to contemplate the consequences had he been indiscreet.
Lindsay GH Hall
Theale, Berks

Sir, You ask “How does Monsieur le President do it?” (Leader, Nov 22). The same way as our very own Prince of Wales did it.
Peter Bradshaw


The Government is not fulfilling its National Plan for Music

All together now: children learn the ukulele at Llandogo primary school, near Monmouth

All together now: children learn the ukulele at Llandogo primary school, near Monmouth Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 23 Nov 2014


SIR – In 2011 the Government announced an inspiring initiative, the National Plan for Music, to ensure all children, whatever their background, would get a good music education and the opportunity to learn an instrument.

However, this promise is not being met and recent studies show serious cause for concern. A sector-wide report from the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) revealed that 40 per cent of British children from more disadvantaged backgrounds who have never played an instrument said they had no opportunity to learn at school. A Paul Hamlyn Foundation review this summer found that in primary schools, only half of music teachers surveyed said they had the necessary resources. Research for James Rhodes’s Don’t Stop the Music television series chimed with these reports, and identified significant problems with teacher training, funding and progression opportunities – issues often raised by the sector.

Music has proven benefits for children – building confidence, teamwork and discipline, and encouraging improvements in literacy and numeracy. But music can easily be undervalued in an already crowded curriculum – a situation worsened by the lack of attention paid to it in regular Ofsted inspections.

The Government must fulfil its commitment and end the inequality of opportunity in school music.

Yours faithfully,

James Rhodes

Concert Pianist and Champion of the Don’t Stop the Music campaign

Professor Colin Lawson
Director, Royal College of Music

Russell Hobby
General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers

Julian Lloyd Webber
Founder of In Harmony


Jeremy Newton
CEO, Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts

Richard Hallam
Chair, The Music Education Council

Anthony Bowne
Principal, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Professor David Saint
Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire

Katherine Zeserson
Director of Learning and Participation, Sage Gateshead

Professor Joe Wilson
Director of Curriculum, Leeds College of Music

Deborah Annetts
Chief Executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians

Jem Shuttleworth
General Manager, The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark

Sarah Alexander
Chief Executive and Artistic Director, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Ian Maclay
Managing Director, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Christopher Warren-Green
Music Director and Principal Conductor, London Chamber Orchestra

Marianna Hay
Artistic Director and Founder, National Orchestra for All

Janie Orr
Chief Executive, EMI Music Sound Foundation

Dr Mary Bousted
General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Alison Balsom

Kathryn Tickell

Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy

Bob and Roberta Smith, Artist

Professor Graham F Welch
Chair of Music Education, Institute of Education

Kevin Brennan MP (Lab)
Shadow Minister for Schools

Lord Lipsey
Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Classical Music

Lord Aberdare
Member, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music Education

The EU’s political crisis; the use of medicinal methadone; the choices facing migrants in Calais; hidden cost of payday advertisements; and Sainsbury’s Christmas spirit

UK economy expected to show growth in third quarter

The burden of EU regulation can prove costly for British businesses Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM GMT 23 Nov 2014


SIR – Juergen Maier, the chief executive of Siemens UK, says membership of the EU is good for business, but his reasoning appears to be as fallacious as that of business leaders who once forecast economic disaster if Britain failed to join the Economic and Monetary Union.

Despite Mr Maier’s attempts to downplay the burden of EU regulation, the economist Professor Tim Congdon estimated last year that it was costing British business £150 billion annually. Jeremy Warner observes that the EU is failing – paralysed by political crisis and a malfunctioning monetary union.

Shouting from the sidelines will not bring European prosperity, says Mr Maier. Nor it, seems, will the EU.

D R Taylor
Everton, Hampshire

23 Nov 2014

SIR – Mr Maier implies that, if we were to leave the EU, British exporters would have to worry about “complying with 28 different reels of red tape”. However, he also asserts that Norway is able to trade with the EU through a “fax democracy”, implementing Brussels regulations from a distance.

Of course, Norway has no say in the formulation of those regulations, but, based on Britain’s inability to resist the EU’s relentless onslaught on the City of London, one wonders what having any real influence actually looks like.

Norway and Switzerland have struck deals with the EU because they have things the EU needs – fish and rail and road transit routes, respectively. But Britain’s trump cards are even stronger. Apart from being the only practical transit route for most trade between the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe – with roads currently provided toll-free, courtesy of British taxpayers – Britain is also the EU’s biggest export market.

If, as we are constantly reminded, three million British jobs depend on our EU membership, how many more on the continent must depend on Britain – because we buy far more from them than they buy from us? I’m sure they won’t want to upset that apple cart in a hurry.

Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Is there no end to EU interference? Mr Maier thinks the union is good for business, but this cannot be the case when one has to read thousands of pages of regulations. Small businesses stay small to remain exempt and avoid the hassle.

Hazel Prowse
Camberley, Surrey

SIR – I was pleased to read that a great number of British businesses wish to renegotiate the terms of the European Union.

Those in business know that in order to achieve success they need to be better than their competitors. Therefore, they also need the freedom to accomplish this. Being tied to a large organisation like the EU, with its various obstructions and petty rules, prevents real competition.

Unless we leave the EU we will fail, as so many of the businesses in Europe are doing currently. Let us remember that trading with other countries is one thing, but to be ruled by them is something else entirely.

B E Norton
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

SIR – Christopher Booker – one of our Britain’s best investigative journalists – reveals a curious dichotomy between his call to leave the European Union and, on the same page, his mention of parents who have turned to Brussels in their hour of need, claiming that their children were wrongly removed from them.

According to Tatyana Zdanoka, a member of the European Parliament committee that recently heard evidence of such cases, Britain is “unique in Europe in the secrecy of its family courts”.

The EU is about much more than economic benefits; it is also a partnership of shared social values. The case of family courts is a poignant example of this.

Clifford Russell
Hallwood Green, Gloucester

Tax should be about percentage of income

SIR – It is all very well indicating that 0.01 per cent contribute 4.2 per cent of income tax, whereas the poorest 9 million contribute less than 4 per cent. But this, of course, ignores National Insurance, VAT, fuel tax and other unfair imposts, such as hospital car park charges, which bear down most on the 9 million.

It’s not what you pay, so much as what you are left with to live upon, that counts. If you are earning £2.7 million and are left with £1.35 million then you can still live pretty well, despite a 50 per cent tax levy.

This is not a plea for higher taxes necessarily, just for more balance and fairness on all sides of the political spectrum.

Alan Miller
Silsoe, Bedfordshire

Asylum in France

French police escort migrants back to the camp in Calais

SIR – The executive director of Doctors of the World UK confirms that migrants in Calais would rather perish than return to their country of origin (Letters, November 16). There is a simple solution: they should apply for asylum in France where they are now resident.

France has many historic ties with the Middle East and was given a mandate for Syria after the First World War.

Hugh Foster
Farnborough, Hampshire

Medicinal methadone

SIR – The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, urges the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to look again at its findings on rehabilitation and encourage addicts to “practise abstinence” rather than being “parked for years on methadone”.

The ACMD recently advised against putting a time limit on prescriptions of opiate substitutions, while emphasising the need for patients to receive talking therapies and other recovery support.

For many people who are dependent on heroin, medication like methadone can help them to become stable enough to rebuild relationships, improve their physical and mental health, stop committing crime and seek employment.

Evidence strongly suggests that imposing an artificial time limit on opiate substitution medication would lead to significant unintended consequences, such as relapse and more deaths from overdose.

Overcoming addiction is never easy or straightforward, nor does “recovery” look the same for everyone.

Dr Marcus Roberts
Chief Executive, DrugScope
London SE1

Careless driving

SIR – Your article on the inability of courts to pass appropriate sentences for careless driving will strike a chord with most lawyers.

The problem lies in the way politicians react to loud campaigns by pressure groups instead of thinking things through. Courts impose prison terms on people whose momentary lapse – of which any of us could be guilty – leads to a death, whereas those guilty of seriously careless driving get away with a fine simply because, by sheer chance, no one dies.

If we punished according to the degree of bad driving rather than the often arbitrary outcome, we might restore some faith in this aspect of criminal justice.

John O’Donnell
Preston, Lancashire

GCHQ is no Bletchley

SIR – David Blunkett invokes the spirit of the Bletchley Park code-breakers in support of the GCHQ’s call for more co-operation from communications companies. This is a misguided comparison at best.

Bletchley Park workers decoded field military signals leading to real tactical military advantage at a time of world war and potential invasion. In peacetime, GCHQ monitors all of our phone calls, browsing data and emails, without parliamentary oversight.

Even so, it has been taken by surprise by all recent major geopolitical events, including the Arab Spring, the Russian resurgence and the rise of Isil.

P D Kirk
London W2

Payday advertising damages families

SIR – According to a survey by the Children’s Society, one in three children aged 10-17 sees payday loan advertisements regularly. These make borrowing money seem easy and fun to children, which increases the pressure on parents to take out high-interest loans.

As credit repayments take up a larger proportion of income, families can find themselves cutting back on essentials. Children can suffer anxiety and bullying as a result of their family’s financial problems.

Children should learn about borrowing and debt from their school and family, not from irresponsible payday loan advertising. The law should be changed to ban these advertisements from television and radio before the 9pm watershed.

When the Consumer Rights Bill is debated in the House of Lords this week, we hope fellow peers will support our amendment.

Rt Rev Timothy Thronton
Bishop of Truro
Lord Mitchell (Lab)
Lord Alton (Crossbench)

London SW1

Undiluted worship

SIR – We have many beautiful cathedrals and churches, some in lovely settings. These, with their wonderful history, their celebration of special occasions and their music and hymns, should be the stars of BBC’s Songs of Praise (Letters, November 16). The splendid Remembrance Sunday service from Aldershot, featured on the programme, was an excellent example of this.

Please can we have our Songs of Praise back, undiluted?

R M Watkinson

Far from Ghent

SIR – Perhaps Alan Titchmarsh’s article (The heart of the matter, Lifestyle, November 16) best illustrates the dangers of learning poetry by heart without looking at the content.

The “Aix” he recalls from Robert Browning’s poem is of course Aix-la-Chapelle, not Aix-en-Provence.

Hugh Rivington
Brettenham, Suffolk

Wind ensemble

SIR – During a practice with my barbershop acappella chorus group, prior to performing at the Birmingham Symphony Hall (Letters, November 16), we were given one last piece of advice: to take care with our diet during the week before the performance.

We were told that if anybody broke wind while we were on stage, it would be heard at the back of the hall.

Cath Klaces
Broughton, Flintshire

Christmas spirit

SIR – There is some criticism of Sainsbury’s four-minute Christmas television advert, which is based on the 1914 game of football played in no-man’s-land between young combatants from opposing trenches during the First World War.

Despite its underlying commercial purpose, surely its theme of peace, friendship and giving is to be applauded – particularly at Christmas.

John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Live and let diet

SIR – If one has to cut down on calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol, why would one want to live to 120?

Donald A Wroe
Bouth, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – On December 2nd, we are being asked by our union to go on strike relating to something that we are already practicing in our school. St Joseph’s College, Lucan, is a pilot school for the Junior Cycle. Over the past three years we have not only changed our approach to student learning but also introduced ongoing assessment for students at Junior and Leaving Certificate levels. If I were to assess the new changes according to the way we give feedback to our students, I would say “Two Stars and a Wish”.

Star one: Ongoing assessment gives immediate positive feedback to students in September and throughout the term. The teacher can assess the learning and any student who is struggling with learning can be helped. Confidence grows and the outlook of the student improves.

Star two: Students must be responsible for their learning – they learn about deadlines, drafting and redrafting and self-evaluation. Students are so engaged in learning that discipline problems no longer feature.

Wish: Teachers need more time to collaborate on assessment and the work that this involves. The day of taking a bundle of exams home to correct by yourself has now passed.

I trust teachers assessing the students; the students trust their teachers. The parents have faith in the teachers; teachers are professional and expert. We also trust the State Examinations Commission, which will monitor this assessment. We have waited for decades for change in assessment. Should memory be the only skill we continue to value in our students? – Yours, etc,



St Joseph’s College,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – All that teachers seek, within the complex set of relationships which frames their professional lives, is the gold standard of external assessment which removes even the slightest risk of their being suspected of conferring any unfair advantage or disadvantage on any student at an important moment in their life. – Yours, etc,


Donabate, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We wish to make it clear that while the second-level teacher unions are seeking to maintain State certification and external assessment, we are in favour of changes to enhance the Junior Cycle and support the introduction of new forms of assessment, as long as these assessment components are externally marked.

We agree with the Minister for Education and Skills that project work, portfolio work, practical work and other methods of evaluating student learning are vital elements of a modern assessment system. We also agree that broadening assessment in this way may help to reduce the pressure associated with having only a terminal written exam. However, in order to maintain the integrity of our State certificate, we believe all State exams, whether written or practical, should be externally assessed.

Forcing teachers to grade their own students for State certification will have a negative impact on the student-teacher relationship and will lead to inconsistencies between schools, thereby undermining educational standards nationally.

Currently, a number of Junior Certificate subjects have practical exam components that are externally assessed. For example, the Junior Cert science exam contains a significant practical element which is externally assessed. Other subjects such as CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education), home economics, music and art also include significant practical elements which are externally assessed. This means that students’ work in these exams is subjected to a rigorous and standardised external assessment process overseen by the State Examinations Commission which ensures consistency, fairness and objectivity for every student.

Just like parents and students, teachers want an improved education experience for our Junior Cycle students. However, teachers are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the Minister’s current proposals. Such far-reaching change cannot be easily undone, so we must get it right from the start. We regret that we must resort to strike action in order to stand up for education. However, we have exhausted all other avenues to date.

We believe a solution exists which meets the need for improvement of the Junior Cycle, but which protects education standards, is student-centred, and which does not undermine the integrity of our State exams system. – Yours, etc,


President, ASTI,

Thomas McDonagh House,

Winetavern Street,

Dublin 8;


President, TUI,

Orwell Road,Dublin 6.

Sir, – Senator John Crown has asked Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD to look into the recent decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) to increase the retention fee paid by nurses (“2,000 nurses, midwives protest over rise in registration fee”, November 18th).

This increase means the fee has risen by 80 per cent in just two years. Nursing has been the only health profession to be targeted for such an increase.

Having been a nurse for many years, working both in Ireland and abroad, I am used to paying the annual retention fees that allowed me to practice as a registered nurse.

However, when working in the UK, and the US, I was not only expected to pay my retention fee, but also to provide evidence of my ongoing relevant education and competence.

I understood that ensuring I and all of my nursing and midwifery colleagues were competent to practice was the key reason for paying retention fees, and we were happy to pay for this service.

However, the NMBI requests the annual fee but does not check the competence of the nurses and midwives they register as regards being fit to practice.

Rather, they use fees to hold fitness-to-practice inquiries, after a professional incident has occurred. A case of too little too late. I am astonished that the professional competence assurance scheme, which is a statutory duty of the board that was set up by legislation three years ago, has still not been implemented.

Why would nurses or midwives feel they should pay anything for this lack of service? –Yours, etc,


Toronto, Canada.

Sir, – This week Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, in answer to a Dáil question from Maureen O’Sullivan TD, dismissed the introduction of mechanical lure coursing as a humane alternative to using timid wild hares as bait for the chasing greyhounds. The hare coursers have told him that it doesn’t work because the greyhounds, they claim, lose interest after following the lure “once or twice”.

On the say-so of the hare coursers, Mr Coveney will not countenance this humane alternative to hare coursing, which does in fact work, and says he has no plans to ban live hare coursing.

The coursers’ claim that greyhounds will not consistently follow a mechanical lure is totally absurd, as presently greyhounds pursue a mechanical lure, time after time, on the greyhound tracks. And in Australia, where live hare coursing has been banned for decades, mechanical lure coursing is now successfully used. And there have been drag coursing events held here in Ireland, one of which was in Listry, Co Killarney, in March 2013, where we filmed greyhounds enthusiastically following the drag. We sent this footage to the Minister, clear and unequivocal evidence that drag works successfully, but our evidence it seems fell not only on deaf ears, but closed eyes. So there is absolutely no excuse for the barbarity that is live hare coursing in this day and age. The Australians and others accepted the ban and moved on to mechanical lure coursing, and the sky didn’t fall in.

The ban on smoking in public places wasn’t countenanced at first and there was much resistance but today nobody yearns for smoke-filled pubs.

Replacing live hare coursing with a mechanical lure would find favour with the vast majority who respect and cherish our Irish hare and who would be more than happy to see the end of a despicable blood sport that brings shame on our country. – Yours, etc,


Irish Council

Against Blood Sports,

PO Box 88,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 01:04

First published: Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 01:04

Sir, – Ian Kenneally’s excellent article “Press was intimidated in War of Independence” (Weekend, November 15th) has outlined the intimidation suffered by the Irish Independent during the War of Independence. May I point out that its great rival in the daily newspaper market at that time, the Freeman’s Journal, was also the victim of republican violence? This was arguably an even greater outrage since it occurred after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was clearly designed to subvert the democratic will of Dáil Éireann in regard to the Treaty.

On March 29th, 1922 (in the hiatus between the signing of the Treaty and the outbreak of the Civil War), the Freeman’s Journal’s printing plant was destroyed by a raiding party of anti-Treatyite IRA because they objected to an article about a convention of their military council held two days earlier. The Freeman responded in a spirited fashion. A much reduced version of the newspaper was produced on Gestetner machines as a stop-gap in the following weeks, until it resumed normal production on April 22th.

With hindsight, many anti-Treatyites came to recognise that it had been a bad mistake to attempt to suppress the Freeman. The effect of that and other similar occurrences was to associate the anti-Treaty side with military dictatorship and censorship – to give the impression that, as the prominent republican Todd Andrews later wrote, people “were liable to be pushed around at the whim of young IRA commanders’”. This tended to strengthen popular support for the Free State government.

The destruction of the Freeman’s plant cast a long shadow. As late as 1976, in a speech about the Criminal Law Bill introduced by the then Fine Gael-Labour coalition government, the parliamentary secretary to the taoiseach, John Kelly, referred to it when dismissing a claim by Charles Haughey that a section of the Bill could give rise to press censorship. That claim, Kelly opined, was “brazen unscrupulousness” – and then he said this: “I may recall that on only one occasion since the Treaty was a newspaper literally put out of action because its politics were unacceptable – in 1922, when the printing works of the Freeman’s Journal were smashed up . . . This thoroughly fascist act was not committed by anyone in the Cosgrave tradition, but by the ‘Republicans’ from whom Mr Haughey’s party proudly trace their descent.” – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – Conradh na Gaeilge is concerned about the lack of Irish in the official Ireland 2016 website. Its criticism would be more appropriately directed at the ghosts of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

Apart from the perfunctory cúpla focal in the heading, Poblacht na hÉireann, the document is entirely in English. Only two of the seven signatories, Seán Mac Diarmada and Eamonn Ceannt, have their names in Irish. The president of the provisional government, who was the most prolific language revival advocate, signs himself “P.H. Pearse”, and this is the form he uses in the bulletins issued during Easter Week.

But then, English has always been the predominant language of Irish nationalism. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College Cork.

Sir, – I would never have viewed myself as a political protester, but rather as a human rights protester. I protest when I see injustice.

This Government and previous ones have consistently hammered the less fortunate, the vulnerable, the sick and disabled people. These groups have finally declared “enough is enough”.

The water protesters are ordinary people who have woken up. They see capitalism favouring only the rich and foresaw Irish water being privatised to favour the top echelons of society.

It is the water protesters who have “seen the light” and it behoves any government of whatever hue to take notice when people say “enough is enough”. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I suggest that Ireland and the rest of the European Union follow Sweden’s example in recognising the state of Palestine while there is still a Palestine left to recognise. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Irish Independent:

The culture of our schools and the teaching profession have changed dramatically over the last 15 years.

Second-level education is focusing on the life skills that our young people will require in the future – resilience, self-management and management of information, among other things. We are trying to move away from a ‘schooling’ which promotes over-dependency among students to an education which promotes independent learning and more student engagement.

To that end, teachers are engaging in new teaching methodologies, new technologies, curriculum reform, inspections, school development, evaluation and improvement initiatives.

Schools are looking at different ways of tracking student performance and learning outcomes. Focused opportunities for continuous professional development are more widely available and teachers are engaged in whole-school planning and development. We have begun teaching the new specification in Junior Cycle English.

A change in our approach to assessment is part of the change in culture and is happening on the ground in classrooms in primary and secondary schools. It is teacher led, and it too is contributing to the growing professionalism of teaching, and to improved learning outcomes for students. It is in line with best international practice.

It is a truly vibrant and dynamic time to be involved in education. Our classrooms are active, fun learning environments – different in many ways to when I started my teaching career.

The concerns of the teaching unions need to be addressed but I hope that they can meet the challenges of these new and most welcome developments in Irish education and not allow them to be bogged down in negative discourse.

Patricia Gordon


Stratford College

Rathgar, Dublin 6

Have the helicopter ready, Enda

It’s 25 years since the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu went to the balcony of his party headquarters to address his people, and finally realised that they weren’t waving in joyful support, but in rage. Even then, as his summary court martial was under way, and later as he was taken to be shot, he was utterly convinced that the liberators, and firing squad in particular, were in big trouble for defying the almighty leader.

Enda Kenny is no Ceausescu, but he is desperately out of touch with a people that aren’t willing to bow down and kiss his feet everywhere he goes.

‘The best little country in the world to be rich and tax avoidant’, is a political philosophy that seems to have comforted Enda Kenny as he patrols the stock exchanges and glossy high-tech company product launches of the world. But, back home, under the austerity balcony made by this coalition government, the general population are seething with anger. They can’t and won’t be silenced .

Enda won’t face a literal firing squad here, but he should get his metaphorical helicopter ready. The people are not cheering Enda, they’re enraged and they won’t be going away.

Declan Doyle

Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny

Coalition is still drowning

The Government is drowning in the water charge controversy. People are not fooled.

Why did the Government not just fix the leaky pipes instead of installing meters? It is not bothered by the wastage, be it wastage of water or wastage of money. It is clear to the people that Irish Water is a vehicle to raise money to pay back bondholders.

It is also being set up so the Government can raise funds by privatising this utility in the future. This is perhaps the greatest fear amongst the people.

Perhaps the best way of commemorating the 1916 Rising would be to enshrine the protection of the water supply in the constitution of a country that was so hard fought for at that time!

Killian Brennan

Malahide Road, Dublin

Voting in SF will reverse progress

If the people of Ireland think they have problems because of water and property taxes, well I am sorry to say they have an even greater problem after the recent opinion poll.

How in the name of whatever god or no god could 22pc of people think we would be better off with a Sinn Fein government?

Can any of you 22pc tell me what would be better about Sinn Fein if they were in power?

This is a party with no realistic politics and an ambiguous point of view on the investigation of sexual abuse (and does this mean that, by default, the 22pc of the population who expressed support for Sinn Fein in that poll hold the same view?)

This is a party with no room for dissent – no member of the party has ever publicly questioned Gerry Adams about his membership of the IRA.

Mr Adams must be laughing at the Irish people and the fact that he can behave in the way he has over the years, and even more so in the last 12 months, with all of his ridiculous comments, eg his remark about the old IRA holding a gun to the head of the editor of the Irish Independent.

I for one would not live in the country under the present Sinn Fein leadership.

When you are asked your opinion by a market research interviewer, remember this is a serious question – not “who do you think will win ‘The X Factor’” – so please answer it seriously .

Do the people who expressed a preference for Sinn Fein in the poll really think Gerry Adams is a future leader? Would they send him to Europe to discuss our economy with Angela Merkel?

We would be a laughing stock.

Our economy was in ruins in 2011. Now it’s in a far better place. We have all suffered, and continue to suffer a bit, but we are in a far better position now and the future is brighter.

Even the unions have realised that, as they have started talking about pay increases.

Please, people of Ireland, don’t blow all the good work now.

Sinn Fein does not deserve to be anywhere near Government.

Name and address with Editor

Don’t hike deposits – cap loans

It would be lunacy to ask potential buyers to amass a deposit of 20pc for a house, but, in the case of an apartment, the buyer would have to save at least 25pc.

This would force young people to move further away from the city and would unfairly depress apartment prices.

Instead of asking for crazy deposits, why not limit the amount loaned? If this action was taken, it’s likely that the market would correct itself over time.

Instead of asking for 20pc/25pc deposit, ask for 10pc (on a house or apartment) and instead of offering the couple €300k, offer them €250k, which they will be under less pressure to repay. The proposed system is favouring couples who have access to family money.

They will always have an advantage, but it does not give the rest of the young prospective homebuyers any hope.

Eamon Ward

Co Wexford

Joe Schmidt for Taoiseach

I would just like to say thank you to Joe Schmidt for what he has done for Irish rugby. I would like to wish him a speedy recovery too, and would like ask if, when the World Cup is over, would he be prepared to run for Taoiseach?

T G Gavin

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Post office

November 23, 2014

23 November 2014 Postoffice

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I go to the Post Office.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down nothing for tea and her tummy pain is still there but decreasing.


Trevor Pharo – obituary

Trevor Pharo was a sales executive better known as Bingo the Clown, who brought slapstick and custard pies to Bognor Regis

Trevor Pharo as Bingo The Clown (right) with fellow clown Doni.

Trevor Pharo as Bingo The Clown (right) with fellow clown Doni.

5:16PM GMT 21 Nov 2014


Trevor Pharo, who has died aged 60, was a south coast sales executive who became better known to younger customers as Bingo the Clown.

As Bingo, Pharo made clowning history in 1985 by staging the first ever International Clown Convention, when, for a weekend, the staid seaside town of Bognor Regis became “Clown Town”. Local policemen wore red noses and some 100,000 visitors turned up to watch a huge street parade, led by Bingo, and enjoy seminars in slapstick, tumbling and custard pies given by masters of the craft.

The conventions continued for about a decade until funding ran out, attracting the support of stars such as Ken Dodd, Jeremy Beadle, and Norman Wisdom, who opened the 1988 convention. One year the local council estimated the event had attracted 200,000 visitors and as many as 700 clowns, 300 of whom had flown in on a specially chartered flight from the United States.

Bingo was the first British clown to entertain Arab audiences in Kuwait, and he made numerous stage and television appearances, most notably at the Children’s Royal Variety Show at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1988.

But his career was not without controversy. In 1989 he was accused by his fellow clown Bluey (alias Blue Brattle) of bringing their calling into disrepute after he had appeared in clown costume on Kilroy to discuss whether clowns were paid enough. He was said to have infringed the rule that a clown should never be serious when wearing motley, though some of his colleagues appear to have reacted badly to his suggestion that some involved in the business were more interested in profits than entertainment. Pharo brushed off suggestions that he should hang up his red nose. “Of course I’m serious from time to time – even if I’m in full make-up,” he said. “I can’t forever be dropping my trousers.”

Trevor Pharo was born at Croydon, Surrey, on April 6 1954 and fell in love with the circus when Billy Smart’s came to town in 1972. After leaving school he helped Smart’s by persuading shopkeepers to put circus posters in their windows and, while working as a graphics and printing supplies salesman, eventually founding his own business, learnt the rudiments of clowning from Billy Gay, the circus’s advance publicity manager who doubled as a clown.

He began to take on weekend clowning jobs at children’s parties and local carnivals and amusement parks. As his reputation grew, he travelled abroad and appeared on stage and television.

He raised large sums for charities, including the Variety Club of Great Britain, the Anthony Nolan Trust, and the children’s charity Dream Flight, giving up his own holidays to accompany planeloads of children, many terminally ill, on a “holiday of a lifetime” to Florida. In 2000 he was presented with an award at an international clown convention for his charitable work.

Trevor Pharo (left) with circus proprietor, Gerry Cottle

In 2009, to raise money for a care centre in Brighton for people with HIV/Aids-related illnesses, he promoted two “adults only” nights of entertainment under the big top of Zippo’s Circus. The shows featured some of the circus’s top stars, led by ringmaster Norman Barrett, alongside a line-up of local cabaret regulars . Music was provided by the Brighton and Hove Gay Men’s Chorus and the “alternative” panto star Robert James, “the Naked Singer”.

Trevor Pharo’s marriage to his wife Angela was dissolved, and in September this year he married his partner, Ian Bromilow, with whom he had lived for 25 years and who survives him with two sons and a daughter of his first marriage.

Trevor Pharo, born April 6 1954, died November 8 2014


occupy london The Occupy London tent protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Photograph: Jack MacDonald for the Observer

Bankers keep cheating, but where are the protests?”, (leader). The Occupy movement was one, though smartly driven from the temple-yard of the Stock Exchange on to the cobbles outside St Paul’s.

The occupiers were right and the problem is not limited to banks. Will Hutton half-acknowledges this when he says: “The [banking] industry structure should never have been allowed” and adds: “Companies (in general) are seen by too many people, notably shareholders, as just instruments for self-enrichment.” (“Banking is changing, slowly, but its culture is still corrupt”, Comment.

“Just”? The confusion is at the heart of company law. The banking industry is no more or less committed to customers and community than the food industry is to consumer health or the fossil-fuel extractors to green hills and valleys. Bankers and CEOs are not uniquely greedy, but their job description puts company success and shareholder profit before any other social or environmental interest. The directors’ prime duty under the Companies Act of 2006 is to the success of their company “in a way that benefits the shareholders”.

They must merely “have regard” for other factors – employment, customers and suppliers, community, environment and long-term consequences. Where the choice is between clear-cut profit margins and such a range of ill-defined variables, it’s obvious which side the bosses’ bread is buttered on. Until these social and environmental “regards” are hardened up as duties, clearly defined and structured into company law and practice, no amount of top-down tinkering will redress the legacy of inbuilt injustice or clean up a “corrupt” culture that is just being true to itself.

Greg Wilkinson


Your leader asks why there are no pickets outside the banks, no protests from “ordinary citizens under the economic cosh”. I think I know why: those ordinary citizens have been sold the lie that their economic woes are due to the profligacy of the last government, nothing to do with bankers. Over the page, Will Hutton reminds us how laissez-faire bank regulation facilitates the cheating. If the last government attracts any blame, it is for under-regulation rather than overspending. Is that too nuanced for today’s political debate?

John Filby



There always has been and always will be fraud in financial services but there are ways of making it less attractive to the fraudsters. Really swingeing fines on the banks, fines of, say, 10 times what they have gained would concentrate directors’ and shareholders’ minds. The perpetrators of the frauds ought to face long prison sentences, sequestration of their assets and a lifelong ban on working in financial services. As a last resort, the bankers ought to face having their businesses taken over by the government. That ought to concentrate minds.

Posted online

Not much point in transferring your money from a bank to a credit union – the credit unions all have accounts with the banks. They are not, at present, big enough to be their own banks.And nowadays it is almost impossible for someone to operate without a bank account. Wages, pensions, benefits are all paid into bank accounts. The days of the pension book you took to the post office, or the little brown envelope you got each payday, are gone. The banks have us by the short and curlies and they know it.

Posted online

'Britain Needs A Pay Rise' National Demonstration in London The Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration in London. Photograph: Dave Evans/ Demotix/Corbis

Sarah Kwei made a number of important and valid points in her comment piece (Comment). However, I believe a subhead declaring that “It’s the community, not work, that’s the new site of protest” did her arguments a disservice. Journalism and academia have been dominated by ideas of fragmented power and the end of workplace organisation for a decade and more. It is true that we can see a decline in union influence since the 80s but this is not because of the new character of work but because (sadly) of the character of too many trade union leaderships.

Business unionism, so encouraged by those who argued that the working class and workplace organisation have ceased to exist, has allowed big business and their political representatives in the three main parties to drive down real wages and shift the tax burden from the wealthy on to working-class people. My union, the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), continues to organise successfully in the workplace. The £50K paid to train drivers by many train-operating companies is well publicised but RMT has also fought and ended zero-hours contracts for cleaners on the Tyne & Wear Metro and continues to organise subcontracted cleaners on London Underground behind a demand for £13 an hour.

Where trade unions get out and organise marginalised workers, victories can be won. But I also agree wholeheartedly that a new collaboration between trade unions and community movements is needed. Years ago, that collaboration manifested itself through the Labour party. Those days are gone.

Jared Wood

Political officer, RMT London Transport Regional Council

London NW1

Why I choose not to vote

Barbara Ellen describes me as “bone idle, ill-informed and immature”, (“Democracy matters – use your vote”, Comment).

Her wrath is directed at non-voters, a section of the community that I am very happy to inhabit for several reasons and is based on the  assumption that, should I be unimpressed by all of the candidates I should choose one out of a sense of duty. She conveniently ignores the multitude of politicians who shamelessly abstain from voting on parliamentary debates and bills. I venture to suggest that a minority of these non-voters have genuine reservations, but the majority are abstaining due to nothing more than moral cowardice.

Rather than condemning those of us who weigh up the options and then act accordingly, perhaps she could reflect on the historical consequences of compulsory voting that have resulted in the plethora of elected monsters who have wreaked evil, misery and devastation on our planet.

Andrew Thompson


Landowners need to lay off

Catherine Bennett’s interesting article “The countryside is too vital to leave to its greedy owners” (Comment) argues that large landowners claiming special knowledge of the land are despoiling it with profitable ugly developments. However, as the accompanying picture shows, they have already ruined the landscape itself by ripping out beautiful old hedges and trees and cultivating huge, bleak fields of monocultural grass. Somehow, we need a radical and mandatory programme of land restoration for now and the future.

Tricia Cusack


The other face of Bristol

As a Bristolian born and bred, I did not recognise my city in your article (“Networked and superfast: welcome to Bristol, the UK’s smartest city”, News).  I do get tired of seeing Bristol portrayed almost exclusively in pictures of the suspension bridge, and hearing how the small group of ex-Bristol University alumni, living in Clifton, are making the city swing. There are acres of deprived 50s council estates. The congestion in the city is worse than London and the air quality in many places fails to reach EU standards. Our public transport is a joke. Our council is among the worst in Britain. Our mayor is a tech whiz but he is also presiding over the wholesale destruction of green spaces and prime food-growing land to build an overbridge for the Metrobus scheme. This ill-planned scheme is opposed by most Bristolians except those who will benefit financially. As for super-connection, I live well within the city borders and have to go outside the house to get a mobile signal. The article reinforces the impression that Bristol is a wealthy city, making it hard to attract government help. In fact, there are huge inequalities in quality of life, housing and income.

Jane Ghosh


Driven to heavy sarcasm

Your front-page revelation that the coalition “has helped the rich by hitting (the) poor”, News, has totally disillusioned me. I had imagined that the bedroom tax, cuts in benefits, tighter jobcentre rules, zero-hours contracts, increased VAT and the remorseless fragmentation of our national health and education services, were all part of the coalition strategy to improve everybody’s lot. We are, after all, all in this together, aren’t we?

John Merrigan

East Molesey


Emily Thornberry: lost her shadow cabinet job over a tweet. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Emily Thornberry: lost her shadow cabinet job over a tweet. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Before the Rochester picture affair is allowed to fade, it badly needs some deeper consideration (Labour rocked by ‘sneering’ blunder, 21 November).

A house draped in statements of national allegiance, upstaged by a big white van representing a way of earning a living, is clearly an arresting image, and Emily Thornberry responded accordingly. Her caption was factual, minimal and comment-free. The household concerned decided to put this striking image into the public domain, so can have no complaint. The result was an instant witchhunt conducted by a political party leader who aspires to run the country.

The image was real. The politician who “naively” acknowledged this particular aspect of reality had to be humiliated and disowned. Labour had to get desperate about its survival before it would admit that there were aspects of UK reality it had been systematically denying. Now it is revealing how quickly the preference for avoiding even talking about reality has reasserted itself. It is Thornberry who is sane and reasonable, and all the rest who are deranged.
Dave Bradney
Llanrhystud, Ceredigion

• Why shouldn’t Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South, declare publicly that she considers St George’s flags to be awfully low-brow and probably indicative of closet BNP voters, that Islington is just so much more multicultural and tolerant, and that it’s vastly preferable better to live somewhere where one can get organic Ocado deliveries all day long? The public are crying out for authenticity in politicians.
Jeremy Brier

• From Gordon Brown’s “bigotgate” to Emily Thornberry’s tweet, Labour has consistently ignored concerns about the squeeze that mass immigration has had on jobs, schools and hospitals. Those of us whose generations of family have worked to pay for these resources might justifiably feel frustration at their current disintegration. The flag wavers are not all bigots and racists. Many are just frustrated that UK passports seem to have been handed out like cheap candy.
Lucie Payne
Sutton, Surrey

• Poor Emily Thornberry. I taught with her mother Sally in Guildford in the early 1970s. Money was scarce in the Thornberry household on the Park Barn council estate: socialist ideals were not. She will bounce back.
John Mair

• Could Emily Thornberry be persuaded to defect to the Green party and cause a by-election in Islington?
Rev Richard Syms
Knebworth, Hertfordfordshire

• I attended my first Green party meeting this week. How refreshing to spend almost all the time discussing nuclear power, housing, public transport and the environment instead of the minutes of the last meeting and matters arising. And then to do so well in Rochester.
Richard Bull
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• It seems inconceivable that the Lib Dems’ support should have disappeared entirely in Rochester and Strood. A lot of the Lib Dem vote, and a large part of the Labour vote, undoubtedly migrated temporarily to the Tories in an attempt to prevent the election of the Ukip candidate. The swing from Tory to Ukip may have been much greater than the figures suggest.
Terry Graham
Grasmere, Cumberland

• The rise of Ukip and the likely advent of regular coalition government are symptoms of the inability of the first past the post system to deliver representative parliaments. When only the marginals, one-sixth of seats, determines the outcome, it is inevitable that significant parts of the electorate will be disenfranchised. They’ve now put in motion a process of change that will end in proportional representation.
Richard Cohen

• Almost 80% of the electorate of Rochester and Strood did not vote for the successful Ukip candidate. Time for electoral reform?
Patrick Billingham

• Ukip’s plan to quit the EU to give the UK more control over immigration takes no account of the fact that history has a habit of repeating itself. At the moment we’re doing better economically than other EU countries, particularly those in the eurozone.

But one day the position will no doubt be reversed with high unemployment in this country forcing workers to look for jobs abroad as for example happened in the 1980s. But with the UK out of the EU there won’t be a repeat of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Roger Hinds
Coulsdon, Surrey

mozambique beach letters Very few programmes ever feature the magical beaches of Mozambique. Photograph: Gary Cook/Alamy

I must compliment you on Why I had to turn down Band Aid (19 November). Most people talk or write about Africa as though it were a single unitary state and appear to be unaware that there are 54 countries (or 58 counting the islands) in this very large continent. It is also very apropos that you point out that that seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.

I first went to Africa in 1966 for a six-month shoot on part of a documentary series for CBS-TV in New York, travelling down the east of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town and missing out only Somalia. I was ashamed of my ignorance and became angry at educational authorities for having virtually nothing in the curriculum I studied about African history. This was aggravated even further when I recently discovered Max Hasting’s statistics in All Hell Let Loose on the Commonwealth troop losses in the second world war: British losses were approximately 340,000. Commonwealth losses were 550,000.

Of course, most of the programmes that I worked on in Africa over the next 45 years were about famine, disease or war, so I have contributed to this image of Africa. Very few programmes ever feature the magical beaches of, for example, Angola and Mozambique, or the ancient heritages of Ethiopia, Benin, Mali, among others. It is further interesting that Paris has a museum solely for African art (well worth a visit) while London has none.
Christian Wangler

06.00 GMT

Michael Abraham pays tribute to Tommy Flowers, who designed and built the Colossus computer (Letters, 18 November). I would add another hidden hero on the engineering side: Harold “Doc” Keene, who worked for the British Tabulating Machine Co in Letchworth and turned the Turing’s ideas into useable machines, the Bletchley Park/Letchworth Bombes.

There are other omissions. The worst is that of the Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rózycki and Henryk Zygalski, who were streets ahead of the British when it came to deciphering Enigma messages at the beginning of war. They passed on their discoveries.

Mention might also be made of Gordon Welchman, a fine cryptographer in his own right, who set up the management system for dealing with the vast number of Enigma decrypts, and Colonel John Tiltman, who made the initial breakthrough in decoding Lorentz messages.

The Lorentz machine wasn’t replacement for Enigma, which continued in use throughout the war. It was used for “secure” communication between Hitler and his senior military commanders. Colossus wasn’t a programmable computer in the modern sense and didn’t translate Lorentz messages. It used statistical techniques to suggest the most likely wheel settings that allowed the German text to be recovered. The translation was carried out by human beings.
Ken Vines
Yelverton, Devon

Alan Turing and his fellow mathematicians are rightly being celebrated for the enormously valuable contribution they made during the second world war at Bletchley Park, not least in the new film The Imitation Game. Their efforts would, however, have been for nought had it not been for the many talented linguists – among whom both of my parents – who translated their decrypted letters into meaningful messages that made sense and which could be turned into usable military intelligence. We need to celebrate both the mathematicians and the linguists for their remarkable contributions. Here, as in many other contexts, we need to draw on the assets of talented individuals from across the intellectual spectrum.
Helen Wallace


It is to be commended that Charlie Gilmour is taking Chris Grayling to task (“Mr Grayling, how do you account for these prison suicides?”, 16 November). But the emotional and mental health problems that prompt self-harm start much earlier.

Children in custody will have experienced abuse and domestic violence, have learning or speech and language difficulties and untreated mental health problems. One fifth of them will have self-harmed and 11 per cent attempted suicide before they went into custody. These children need care, therapy and a regime that assists in their rehabilitation if they are not to continue to offend.

It is therefore of great concern that the plans to spend £87m on a “secure college” are being pushed through parliament. How can an establishment, designed to be a cheap option and holding more than 300 children aged 12 to 17, hope to address these complex issues? In particular, we learn that the secure college will allow force to be used to ensure “good order and discipline”. A 14-year-old boy committed suicide in custody because he had been restrained for this purpose.

All the evidence tells us that warehousing children in a large establishment is more likely to increase the risk of self-harm and suicide, and will do nothing to reintegrate these children back into society.

Pam Hibbert, OBE

Chair, National Association for Youth Justice Professor Dame Sue Bailey

Chair Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition Peter Hindley

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Your editorial, “Summits need tact, not insults” (16 November) was spot on. President Putin was humiliated, whatever genuine opprobrium his actions in Ukraine may deserve, and he won’t forget it when it comes to negotiating with the perpetrators.

Wars can be started by the ego posturing of heads of state, and they can escalate in no time at all. There never was a greater need for intelligent, mature statesmanship which recognises the underlying causes of conflict and seeks constructive ways to remedy what has become an unnecessarily dangerous situation. A little more mindfulness and a lot less Bullingdon.

Sierra Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset

Your editorial alludes to the deal struck by China and the US over climate change but fails to mention that China’s emissions will rise until 2030. Since 1990, annual emissions of carbon dioxide have risen by 60 per cent globally, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now passed 400 parts per million. Irreversible climate change will kick in at 450 ppm, a level which will be reached in 20 years, about the same time that China’s emissions will peak. This deal is nothing more than posturing by the planet’s two biggest polluters.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Joan Smith was wrong to characterise the Catholic Church as opposing human progress (16 November). At the time of Galileo’s arrest, the correct model of the solar system was a matter of genuine debate. Galileo was badly treated but his dispute was (largely) as a result of a personal argument when he implied that the Pope was an idiot for believing the orthodox view.

The orthodox view had been developed mainly by Greek philosopher Ptolomy (not the Bible). It had held up to scrutiny for hundreds of years. Opponents of it had not been able to demonstrate that the Earth rotated at the enormous speed it would be required to (our experience is that we live on unmoving ground).

Adam Huntley

St Albans, Hertfordshire

I’m not much interested in football. The playing field is so uneven nowadays. However, I do enjoy another game called “The Rooney Count”. Before you open a newspaper, you guess how many photos of Mr Rooney will be inside. It’s always exciting and unlike football, involves minimal cost. Last week The Independent on Sunday managed six. I’d guessed seven. Never mind, better luck next time. It’s almost as exciting as “The Cumberbatch Count”!

Pete Butchers

Meldreth, Cambridgeshire


Despite claims by the government that it wants to protect the countryside, its planning reforms have facilitated development in rural communities Despite claims by the government that it wants to protect the countryside, its planning reforms have facilitated development in rural communities

West’s broken promises have played part in Ukraine drama

THE former US assistant secretary of state James Rubin omits any mention of the West’s role in his article “Putin has exploited our weakness in Ukraine — and now the Baltic states are in danger” (Focus, last week).

He ignores Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent observation that Russia feels betrayed by the West breaking its promise that German reunification would not lead to an eastward expansion of Nato. This went ahead, moreover, despite Russia giving America invaluable territorial access for its war in Afghanistan. Then came Ukraine’s tilt to the West.

It is not clear Ukraine is our responsibility. It was part of Russia’s domain for a large period during the 20th century and it is not a member of Nato, whereas a number of the Baltic states now are. Georgia and Ukraine may be one thing, but attacks on Nato allies are different. We know that — and Putin knows we know.
Gordon Bonnyman, Frant, East Sussex


Rubin asserts that this “is what happens when a bully is not confronted right away and becomes drunk with his own apparent success”. Was this not Anthony Eden’s argument about the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser? America’s response was to pull the rug from under our currency until we gave Nasser a free hand. Has America changed its spots?
David Drury, Swanage, Dorset

Planning rural blight from Westminster

THE housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis, says “countryside protection” is at the heart of what this government is doing to reform planning (“Countryside alliance”, Letters, last week).

I live in rural Somerset and I can assure him that nothing is further from the truth. Lewis has been in his job for just a few months and demonstrates his lack of understanding of the reality outside his Westminster bubble.

Here we have opportunist, land-grabbing housing developers putting in planning applications for large unsightly estates on prime agricultural greenfield sites with the near certainty that local authorities are unable to stop them. Any refusal will be appealed against by developers, which know that councils are unable to afford the cost of appeals.
Robin Lea, Congresbury, Somerset


Our parish of 500 houses, two pubs, one village shop/post office and one junior school is facing planning applications for 200 homes. The issues involved are complex and include the relaxation of planning consent, the removal of a local development plan, poor transport links, insufficient infrastructure, farmers selling up and so on.

It was therefore interesting to read the minister’s gift of local determination and his recognition of environment protection. What guff.
Howard Day, Swadlincote, Leicestershire

US general in the line of fire

AS TWO senior officers who served with General Sir Nick Carter in Kandahar in 2009 and 2010 we are appalled at the portrayal that the retired US general Daniel Bolger has given of operations in southern Afghanistan under the new chief of the general staff’s leadership (“British Army chief ‘cost lives’ ”, News, last week).

The Nato International Security Assistance Force’s (Isaf) policy of “courageous restraint” was controversial, but it was specifically designed to protect the civilian population whose trust and support we were trying to win.

This required a subtly different kind of courage from our soldiers on occasion, but British and US troops were never denied the right of self-defence or prevented from accessing the considerable support available in southern Afghanistan, as suggested by Bolger. Far from General Carter residing in a “well-appointed command post” we frequently stood in for him as he ventured into the population centres, holding countless meetings with our Afghan partners and getting a real feel for the situation on the ground.

We never saw Bolger on the ground in Kandahar, and therefore the authority with which he appears to speak on the relationships that existed between Isaf headquarters in Kabul and its HQ in Kandahar should be treated with much scepticism. We believe he has made his assertions on the basis of third-hand information.
Major-General Richard Davis, British Army, and Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, Commanding General, US Army Europe


I am lucky to have lived through an extraordinary period of space endeavours (“One giant step”, Focus, last week). The grainy pictures of the first moon landing in 1969 are something I shall never forget, and the Rosetta mission was driven by scientists — many of them British — to find why we are here and how. I hope through such ventures, God will be taken out of the equation.
Harvey Clegg, Woodbridge, Suffolk


Simon Green, senior lecturer in space science at the Open University, states: “The cost of Rosetta pales into insignificance next to what people spend on shampoo and mascara”. But at least they have something to show for the outlay.
Terry Slater, Harlow, Essex


Why is the cost of space exploration always compared with expenditure on female products such as mascara rather than male products such as aftershave?
David Greenwood, Barnet, London

Fifa deserves red card for whitewash

THE Fifa scandal surrounding World Cup bidding continues unabated (“Fixer’s World Cup offer to England”, News, and “Fifa’s whitewash can’t hide stain of corruption”, Editorial, last week), and there is now surely no doubt that this inept and seemingly corrupt organisation is totally unfit for purpose.

If the world of football had anything about it, it would ensure that Fifa in its present form is abolished and replaced by a totally new organisation run by an executive with no connections to the past. Unfortunately, one suspects that there are far too many people at the top of world football with their snouts in the trough to take this necessary action for the benefit of the game.
Bob Watson, Baildon, West Yorkshire


The mention of a “Fifa ethics judge” is rather like referring to a “Nazi equal-opportunities officer” or a “mafia non-violence committee”. The most honourable thing English football could do would be to leave Fifa, but with money holding the central place in the game that it does, this is never going to happen.
Colin Jordan, London W4


I write as director of the largest West Midlands pathology service, a six-year member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence cancer services and a former president of the Association of Clinical Pathologists.Your front-page article “Surgeons told to publish deaths”(News, last week) is detrimental to patients. A surgeon faced with a patient destined to die without an emergency operation, where that procedure carries an 80-90% risk of death, will now not try. As a 63-year-old, can I expect that the surgeon will consider his “position” before considering my own as a very sick patient whom he could save, albeit by operating at risk of an increased death rate? Should I die in such circumstances, it should not be wrongly attributed to the surgeon who tried their best in such dire circumstances.
Professor Archie J Malcolm,Shrewsbury, Shropshire


I am not sure which is more shocking — that a con artist should issue a death threat (“ ‘Try to find your £380,000 watch and you’ll die’ ”, News, last week) or that anyone would pay that amount for a watch when a smartphone has more “super complication” than a Patek Philippe timepiece and tells the time more accurately.
Mark Solon, London SW12


The claim that in the First World War “1.2m Indians fought in the mud in Belgium and France and they died in vast numbers” is misleading (“Let every school saddle up for a war course”, News Review, November 9). The 1.2m figure is the total number of men who served in the Indian army anywhere in the world, including India itself, during the war. For the western front the figures are roughly 90,000 soldiers (of whom almost 9,000 gave their lives) and 50,000 non-combatants in labour units. At least 5,000 have no known grave.
TA Heathcote, Author of The Military in British India


Your data on the domination of some grammar schools by children from ethnic minorities is deliciously ironic (“White pupils fail to make grade for grammar school”, News, last week). Those middle-class, professional and media folk who have been so condescending and laid-back about immigration will soon feel the impact of migrant competition on their children’s careers and prospects. Something about sowing and reaping?
Peter Richards, Poole, Dorset


I have spent 35 years in food production and expected more from your article on the employment of Hungarians in a UK sandwich factory (“Feeding the sandwich generation”, Focus, last week). Where was the mention of the benefits the sandwich industry has for our farmers, bread makers and packaging companies, and of the tax they generate? Britain leads the way in large-scale modern food production. Look at any manufacturer of chilled food, from fruit packing to ready meals, and it will be filled with hard-working, tax-paying foreigners without whom Nigel Farage would not get his Christmas turkey and sliced salmon next month.
Stephen A Minall, Radlett, Hertfordshire


May I correct an error regarding the cause of death of Sally Mugabe, the first wife of Robert Mugabe (“Power rival feels Mrs Mugabe’s claws”, World News, November 9)? I had intermittently attended Sally for 12 years up to her death. She had been on kidney dialysis for 10 years and died of an infection in 1992. There was no question of cancer, as was reported.
Dr Roger Gabriel, Emeritus Consultant Renal Physician, Guildford, Surrey


What a shame The Sunday Times has fallen for the myth of body mass index (BMI) being an indicator of obesity (“Britain’s (not so) light infantry”, News, last week). When I was serving in the army I attended my annual medical check and, despite being successful in whatever fitness test I undertook, I was horrified to see that my weight classified me as obese. I was told by the military medical orderly that the BMI was “just for civvies”.
Mark Newnham, York


Is it so outrageous to suggest that exercise is a more effective and beneficial solution to the claimed obesity crisis than trying to control fast-food portion sizes? That said, a little common sense would be a far more useful solution to many of today’s problems than the ever-increasing effort to regulate our lives.
Hamish Hossick, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Corrections and clarifications

In last week’s newspaper the masthead “UK’s top 600 primary & prep schools” and pages of the Parent Power supplement in News Review headed “Britain’s top 300 primary and prep schools” should have read “England’s top 600…” and “England’s top 300… ” respectively. We apologise to our readers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the misleading nature of the headlines.

The article “Let every school saddle up for a war course” (News Review, November 9) attributed the claim that “1.2m Indians fought in the mud in Belgium and France and they died in vast numbers” to Michael Morpurgo. This is incorrect and was added during the editing process. We apologise to Mr Morpurgo for this error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our complaints section for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Zoë Ball, broadcaster, 44; Miley Cyrus, singer, 22; Joe Eszterhas, screenwriter, 70; Kevin Gallacher, footballer, 48; Shane Gould, former Olympic champion swimmer, 58; Bruce Hornsby, musician, 60; Sue Nicholls, actress, 71; Diana Quick, actress, 68; Robert Towne, screenwriter, 80; Kirsty Young, broadcaster, 46


1924 Edwin Hubble publishes discovery that Milky Way is not the only galaxy; 1963 first episode of Doctor Who; 1990 Roald Dahl, author, dies; 1996 hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane crash-lands, killing 125; 2002 rioting over the country’s hosting of the Miss World contest leaves 215 dead in Kaduna, Nigeria


Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – My stance in favour of water charges all along has been because of conservation. Now that we know the details of the charges it seems the conservation argument has gone out the window. Now it seems that what my anti-water charges friends were telling me was correct – it is just a tax under another name.

With a cap in place on charges, it seems it doesn’t matter how much water you use. We are now being told that the meters will help reduce bills if you use a small amount of water. In reality the reduction will be minuscule and will not be worth the effort. Granted the meters may find a few leaks but if you are effectively not being penalized for them, what’s the point in getting them fixed.

€500 million worth of meters will effectively be a white elephant of epic proportions compared to the €50 million spent on e-voting machines.

While I have not taken part in any protests so far I am seriously thinking of taking part in the next nationwide protest on December 10. Let’s derail this out of control speeding train before there is an almighty crash,

Thomas Roddy,


Give with the hope of reward

Madam – This Christmas Irish people should reach out to neighbours with charitable donations. I know of a man who, over many years, helped others anonymously. He never spoke of these good deeds but many had cause to be grateful, for the blank envelope found in the post box.

Just put some money in an envelope and post it to someone in need. There are millions of euro leaving the State on behalf of the Irish people every single day. It is time to look after our own needy.

Harry Mulhern,


Show respect for dead and injured

Madam – The recent death of a two-year-old girl, who was killed in a road traffic accident in Waterford, was tragic and heart-rending. I cannot begin to imagine the grief that her family are going through.

It is deplorable that members of the public that happened upon the scene began capturing videos and photo images with their phones.

Yet it has become so widespread that Waterford Fire Services has appealed to the public to let them get on with their work and to show respect and dignity to those involved in accidents. Curiosity is normal; taking pictures of dying, injured and distraught victims is not.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Good friends are worth a lot

Madam – What a truly poignant piece from Eleanor Goggin – “A friend through thick, thin and laughter” in the Sunday Independent (16 November). I was in tears after reading it.

We have all had these best friends, in childhood, school, college and later years and they are more than worth their weight in gold.

I can totally empathise with Eleanor’s description. My friends and I have been through so much together over the past 25 years including parents’ deaths, ill-health, etc, and I can honestly say anything to them. We can sit in silence reading or laugh hysterically at the most stupid things. We all put up with each other’s oddities.

My thoughts are with Eleanor and her friend’s family. I am going to make a point of touching base with some of my closest friends, for you never know the day nor the hour.

Mary Quinn,

Dun Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

There’s a need for new politics

Madam – What I found most revealing about last weekend’s water charges demonstration was that it was timed to coincide with a group of adults receiving graduation certificates – people improving their lives through hard work and application.

We now see that the hard-Left offers a politics of perpetual adolescence – angry with “the system”, but never offering a viable, or affordable alternative.

We also have a huge number of people – myself included – who will never again vote for any of the big three parties who have ruled this State since independence.

Their tribalism and cronyism, along with their contempt for the taxpayer, make their version of “democracy” too far from what’s required in the 21st century.

The vacuum in Irish politics needs to be filled by responsible politicians – and a responsible electorate.

We need grassroots democracy, a genuine “public service”, elected mayors with real clout, balanced budgets and an end to generations of welfare dependency in an economy still able to attract large numbers of immigrants.

A real republic would be a fitting tribute to the 1916 generation, and leave a far better legacy for the generations to come.

Over to you, Independents with vision.

Gerry Kelly,


Dublin 6.

Protests can get hijacked

Madam – As we witnessed in Jobstown last week, peaceful protests can be hijacked by other less savoury elements.

I believe politicians calling for a “show of anger” should bear this in mind in relation to the planned protest on December 10.

In my humble opinion, and I hope I am wrong, I think there is a good chance that every Garda-hater and malcontent will see this event as an early Christmas present.

I have visions of the “Love Ulster” debacle, when similar elements showed their own particular version of protest.

If this turns out to be the case on December 10 the aforementioned politicians should start preparing their respective speeches.

Pat Burke Walsh,


Co Wexford

We need a strong leader

Madam – While watching the disgraceful behaviour of a sinister element to the water charges protests, and the total disrespect for our democratically elected ministers, it behoves the Catholic Church to come out strongly, and show their utter abhorrence at this sordid show of violence and anarchy.

Shame on those thugs, and also on those who abused Mairia Cahill and all the other victims. Where is the voice of reason, before we step over the precipice. We need a strong leader now more so than ever.

Una Heaton,


Change can come quick if we want it

Madam – Isn’t it surprising how quickly this government acted to rein in its more extreme tendencies – once its own future prospects were put in jeopardy, regarding the protests over Irish Water?

May we all live long enough to witness a few more epiphanies!

Richard Dowling,


Co Laois

Should we leave EU to mark 1916?

Madam – The debate about how we should commemorate the 1916 Rising is just beginning. No doubt it will be used and abused by politicians to justify every point on the political spectrum.

Perhaps the best way to truly recall the memory of the men and women who paid the ultimate price for the right to self-determination would be to hold a referendum about our support for the disgraceful usurpation of the Irish people by our so-called EU partners.

The Irish people should be afforded an opportunity to assert our support or otherwise for the forced bailout of the European and international private banking system and the German-dominated political institution (the EU) that imposed such cruel terms on this nation. It is timely, on the centenary of our most significant historical moment, that we take courage and consider leaving the EU, a body that will never again respect this nation’s right to equal treatment.

The wording of the referendum is partly in place, courtesy of Thomas J Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, PH Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”

Declan Doyle,

Lisdowney, Kilkenny

Water charges made worm turn

adam – Enda Kenny spoke of a democratic revolution on his accession to power but, as we have seen, this was not the case. The bailout is over, the Troika has come (though it pops over every now and again), but the same vested interests and people at the top of the pile sail serenely on.

Politicians, developers, bankers and regulators lost us our independence and our sovereignty; our children took the emigrant boat/plane again; and our shops and industries closed by the thousand. We bailed them out, but got little thanks for it.

Finally, in the shape of the water protests, the Celtic worm has turned. I think most of us were too terrified by the suddenness of the bust to be angry at the time, which explains why there were so few protests during the height of austerity.

We were left in a parlous position of needing to be bailed out, we saw that our leaders in the political and banking sectors literally were clueless and we were afraid.

Now that fear has somewhat subsided, and has been gradually replaced by a slow-burning anger.

With this anger, the chimera of Enda’s democratic revolution is gradually taking shape. The water protests saw ordinary people tell those in charge that we won’t take any more. The problem is both financial and philosophical.

We are already paying for water, and if leaks need fixing, then use this money to get them fixed. It should not take a new monopoly, complete with inbuilt bonus culture (and we saw where that got us in the financial sector during the Celtic Tiger), to do this job.

Nor should this company, which is set up to manage water, immediately pay millions to consultants to tell them how to do their job!

Given that all of this boils down to “fix the leaks”, it is no wonder that people are angry.

This will not just be water under the bridge for this government. The Irish people showed Fianna Fail and the Greens what they thought of them in the last election – and election 2016 is coming soon. What a fitting date to begin a real democratic revolution.

Dr Eugene O’Brien,

Dept of English,

Mary Immaculate College

University of Limerick

Let’s put the children first

Madam – In last week’s Sunday Independent, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly speaking about Sinn Fein and abuse allegations said: “If we are to address the failings of our past, which we know are many, we must recognise we have a duty to put children first. This means all of us all of the time. Otherwise we will fail our children again.”

I say, forget the pomp and ceremony of commemorating 1916. Instead use the €26m to get the children’s hospital started, and I mean started – bricks-and-mortar started. A united Ireland that so much blood has been shed for is increasingly a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic population. Let’s drop the romantic sentiment, do our duty and put children first. They are after all, always going to be our future.

Cut through the red tape, bureaucracy and let’s face it, egotistical bullshit, and use the opportunity to put the children of Ireland first. For once.

Anne Lawlor,

Marino, Dublin 3

Things could get worse – wake up

Madam – Gerry Adams spends much of his time in his native jurisdiction, ie, Northern  Ireland, where he keeps busy preparing his people for the British general election, coming up soon.

Anyone who finds the spectacle of an “Irish republican” TD gearing up to campaign for potential MPs in a British parliament somewhat confusing, can be assured that under the guise of SF being a “national party”, we only need to think for one minute to realise Gerry’s outfit are indeed a partitionist political entity. Of course this is something they abhor in our own legitimate democracy here in Eire.

They accuse others in Leinster House of being what they represent more than anyone in politics, themselves. And we wonder why an American journalist might get bamboozled as to exactly who and where we are?

The current mantra of Sinn Fein in what they used to call disparagingly the “Free State,” is ‘tax the rich’, whatever that means. The ‘rich’ already are paying. The propaganda SF issues in polite circles is to portray concern for the hard-pressed payers of tax while the perceived rich are ‘getting away’ with murder, if you’ll pardon the pun.

There is a distinct lack of clarity when they speak of the unspeakable “rich”, but among many of their supporters this simply means anyone who has a small business; someone who owns a nice car, or indeed everyone with a job already paying tax but not known to vote for Sinn Fein.

A lot of the ‘thinking’ among the Shinners’ rank and file is that their time has come and the taxing to extinction of the movers and shakers in business, and the supposed well paid, means more for themselves as they contemplate the revolution with a few extra special offer cans on their sofas from the un-Irish local supermarket, while watching ‘Match of the Day’ wearing Liverpool and Chelsea shirts.

Wake up Ireland,if you think things cannot get any worse than they are now.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork.

We’re still waiting, Mary Lou

Madam – Last week, in Dail Eireann, Mary Lou McDonald stated “anyone associated with the abuse of a child or the cover-up of abuse must face the full rigours of the law”.

A week later and I have not heard of her mentioning her party leader who has admitted he was aware of his brother’s abuse of his niece and took no action?

Cal Hyland,

Rosscarbery, West Cork

Why do we keep knocking Bob?

Madam – Please, Please, Madam, tell me it was a big mistake to publish Declan Doyle’s letter “Give ‘em your money, Bob” (Sunday Independent, 16 November).

I will not even go into the reasons why, they are so obvious.

Why, oh why Madam, do we so often, try to knock really good people in this country?

(By the way, thank you so much for publishing my letter about the wonderful school choirs – I was just sorry it was so close to Mr Doyle’s rubbish.)

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Bob is a real leader with Band Aid 30

Madam – I am sure I am not alone when expressing my disgust at one Mr Doyle in the Letters Page (Sunday Independent, 16 November), having a go at Bob Geldof and Band Aid 30 re-doing Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Geldof is someone who tries to make a difference when others wait for someone else to do something. He’s an example to us all.

Why would anyone who is mourning the loss of their daughter be bothered to launch another campaign this time to help Ebola victims? This is the mark of the man, taking action rather than moaning that something should be done.

John Walsh,


Sunday Independent


November 22, 2014

22 November 2014 Bank

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I go to the bank.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down vegatables for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska – obituary

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska was a daughter of Poland’s national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudsk and flew Spitfires for the Allied cause

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, centre, during the war

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, centre, during the war

5:25PM GMT 21 Nov 2014


Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, who has died aged 94, was the younger daughter of the pre-war Polish leader and military hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski; after the German invasion of her country, she fled to Britain, where she served during the war as a pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Jadwiga Pilsudska was born on February 28 1920 in Warsaw, the younger of two daughters of the Polish “chief of state” by his then mistress Aleksandra Szczerbinska, whom he was unable to marry because his first wife, Maria, refused him a divorce. They married after Maria died in 1921.

Many Poles regard Pilsudski as their greatest national hero – the man who helped Poland regain its independence at the end of the First World War after 125 years when it had been wiped off the map. In the year Jadwiga was born, he led Polish troops to a stunning victory over Russian Bolshevik forces in the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-20. If his later record, as de facto dictator of Poland from 1926 to his death in 1935, remains more controversial due to his internment of political opponents, his vision of a multi-ethnic Poland, tolerant of different peoples and faiths, is one which continues to inspire many Polish democrats.

From their earliest years Pilsudski’s daughters, Jadwiga and her elder sister Wanda, joined him in public appearances. Brought up in Warsaw and educated at a private school, they lived for some time in the Belweder Palace, which now houses a museum dedicated to their father, and at Milusin, a small manor house at Sulejówek (about 12 miles east of Warsaw), that had been given to the Marshal by his soldiers.

Jadwiga’s interest in aviation began in childhood. From building model aeroplanes, she graduated to flying gliders in 1937 and went on to gain her pilot’s licence.

After leaving school in 1939, she wanted to study aeronautical engineering at Warsaw’s Technical University, but her plans were interrupted by the German invasion that September. Shortly afterwards she fled with her mother and sister to Sweden before being evacuated on a special flight to England, where she embarked on a degree in Architecture at Newnham College, Cambridge.

February 1940 saw the foundation of the ATA as a civilian service dedicated to ferrying aircraft around the UK for the RAF, and Jadwiga soon made the first of several attempts to join the new service.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska with officers during the war

By the spring of 1942 there was an increasing demand for ATA pilots. British women pilots had been recruited from the early months of the war, and in the spring of 1942 the first American women pilots arrived. They were the largest group of overseas ATA pilots. Excluding those from the Commonwealth, the next largest, and certainly the most colourful, were the Poles. From 1940 there had been a steady trickle of Polish male pilots; among the June 1942 contingent was the young and attractive Jadwiga.

Initially she flew training and light transport aircraft before graduating to fighters such as the Hurricane and Spitfire (her personal favourite). Before transferring to a new aircraft type, pilots spent a brief period sitting in the cockpit to familiarise themselves, and then, using a standard checklist, they took off on their first flight .

Jadwiga, who was described by her superiors as “ of above average skills”, rose to be a second officer and this allowed her to fly Class 4 aircraft, which included advanced twin-engined aircraft such as the Wellington bomber and the Mosquito in addition to fighters and transport aircraft.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska (second from right) with other ATA pilots during the war

After two years with the ATA she decided to return to her studies and in July 1944 took leave of absence to enrol at the Polish School of Architecture at the Polish University Abroad, housed at Liverpool University, from where she graduated in 1946. In 1944 she had married Lieutenant Andrzej Jaraczewski, a Polish naval officer, with whom she had a son and daughter.

After the war they remained in political exile in Britain. For a time Jadwiga worked as an architect in the urban and regional planning department of the London County Council, before she and her husband founded a small company producing lamps and furniture of her own design.

She never took British citizenship, instead using a Nansen passport (for political refugees) pending the day when she could resume full Polish citizenship.

Her daughter, Joanna, returned to Poland in 1979 and married the Solidarity activist Janusz Onyszkiewicz (who would serve two terms as Poland’s Minister of Defence in the 1990s). Jadwiga waited until the fall of communism in 1990, when she and her husband and sister returned home, settling in Warsaw, where Andrzej Jaraczewski died in 1992.

With her sister, Jadwiga co-founded the Jozef Pilsudski Family Foundation, and in 2000 they persuaded the state to return the family manor of Milusin, where plans are now under way for the construction of a museum dedicated to their father.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska in later life (AP)

For her wartime service in the ATA Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska was awarded the Polish Bronze Cross of Merit with Swords, and in 2008 she was presented with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the Polish president Lech Kaczynski.

Her sister Wanda died in 2001. Her children survive her.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, born February 28 1920, died November 16 2014


Professor Janet Beer Professor Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, is one of only 35 women among a total of 170 higher education vice-chancellors. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Having worked in the field of equality legislation, I reject the suggestion that it dictates to people and controls what they can say or think (Paul Mason, G2, 17 November), as was claimed in a Sheffield University study. From Britain’s first Race Relations Act of 1965 to the 2010 Equality Act, such legislation merely seeks to ensure that members of minority groups are equally entitled to choose where they live, work or are educated, living fulfilled lives without being hampered by other people’s prejudices.

Anyone who wants to throw a private party for redheaded lesbians excluding blond heterosexual men is free to do so, but must never exercise those prejudices when employing people or letting them accommodation. The great achievement of race relations legislation since 1965 has been to make racial prejudice socially unacceptable enough to make people hesitate before expressing it. That some people still display it is regrettable, but must be accepted as part of the diversity of human beings.

I write as the widow of a black Jamaican, with a Ghanaian-born son-in-law and an Irish-Canadian grandmother from Quebec. I am also descended from a Huguenot pastor who escaped from Roman Catholic persecution in France in 1686 eventually to settle in Holland, which entitles me to live in England’s oldest immigrant housing scheme, in Rochester.
Jane Hammond
Rochester, Kent

• The dismal plight of many women in academia makes depressing reading (Low pay, brief maternity leave and few senior roles, Education, 18 November). In higher education in Britain just 35 women are vice-chancellors out of a total of 170, women form only 17% of the professoriat, and nearly three-quarters of the posts paying more than £57,000 are held by men. The plight of pregnant academics and mothers with young children was particularly distressing to read.

Surely vice-chancellors, with their combined IQs, can come up with some solutions to these issues. Is it not time these blatant inequalities in higher education were addressed?
June Purvis
Emeritus professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth

So Prince Charles thinks he will be well placed to relay public opinion when he becomes king (Report, 20 November). He has a staff of 124, dresses like his grandfather and hires his own personal airliner (at taxpayers’ expense) to fly to Nelson Mandela’s funeral. His favourite pop group is the Three Degrees. I can’t think of anyone better to represent me.
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

• Those writing of the lack of recognition for Tommy Flowers (Letters, 18 November) may be heartened to know that a street in a new housing estate on the site of the Bletchley outstation in Eastcote, Middlesex, appears to be named after the wizard of Dollis Hill.
Andrew Calvert
Eastcote, Middlesex

• Perhaps the council in the New Era estate scandal (Report, 20 November) should compulsorily purchase the estate? Issuing CPOs to landlords proposing above-inflation social housing rent increases might take a lot of “financialisation” out of housing altogether.
Wendy Bradley

• Perhaps your subs, when describing the likes of Kim Kardashian, could bear in mind this limerick: There was a young lady from Madras, / Who had a most wonderful ass; / Not round, plump and pink, as you probably think, / But grey, with long ears and ate grass (Letters, 17 November).
Robert Proctor

• Jonathan Freedland (Opinion, 15 November) did not mention that the spacecraft for the comet mission was built by Airbus Defence and Space UK or that the Open University and Rutherford Appleton laboratory developed a key instrument on board Philae – both major successes for British workers, who deserve our congratulations for their faultless design and manufacturing.
Huw Jones
St Clears, Carmarthenshire

• I suggest that the comet is about the size of Barry Island near Cardiff, but easier to get to (Letters, 18 November).
Wyn Thomas

How’s this for an opening line: “We caught a cold when we were coming” (A translator’s incisive essays explore the inner life of fiction, Review, 15 November). It was this howler that prompted my husband, Erich Fried, to make a bid as translator of TS Eliot – or so he told me (and I don’t think he could possibly have made it up). He translated almost anything; I know of only two texts he baulked at: Jesus Christ Superstar (and that wasn’t because he didn’t like the text) and, predictably, Finnigans Wake, apart from about 12 pages. A recent BBC programme credited his translation of Under Milk Wood as making Dylan Thomas famous in Germany, shortly after his death.

Incidentally, Erich translated straight into German poetry at (only a slow-ish) dictation speed. I was painting him while he translated Shakespeare, so I know. It astonished and appalled me in equal measure.
Catherine Boswell Fried

David Cameron in Brisbane: what was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achi David Cameron in Brisbane: what was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achieve? Photograph: Glenn Hunt/AFP/Getty Images

George Monbiot’s call for “a government commission on post-growth economics” should be urgent parliamentary business (Growth: the destructive God that can never be appeased, 19 November). All MPs should read the article, and they should tell us how they respond to some relevant questions. Do you realise that economic growth today demands more fossil fuel combustion that exacerbates disastrous climate change? Do you believe the UK could create a steady-state economy? Do you agree that social justice in a steady-state economy would require major reduction in the gap between the rich and the poor? Do you agree that the survival of most of the human race depends on these issues? Are you desperately worried about the world your grandchildren will inherit?

Britain led the world in the industrial revolution with economic growth: could we now take the lead in a steady-state revolution with zero economic growth?
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

• The G20 in Brisbane was a missed opportunity to reinvigorate the global economy. Instead of stimulating new international action, its red-light warnings have been used by David Cameron to pre-empt criticism of any forthcoming downturn in the UK economy (Cameron fears second global financial crash, 17 November) and dismissed by Ed Miliband as irrelevant to explaining any future UK failures (Miliband mocks PM over ‘excuses’ for borrowing, 18 November). The sad truth is that Britain should have been playing a leading role before and during the G20 to mobilise support for multilateral actions of stimulus and balanced global growth, on which the health of the world economy depends. Global actions of stimulus briefly succeeded in 2009, though sadly were abandoned before they had taken hold on a global scale, though not before they had demonstrated some real success. The global economy grew 4% in 2010. A fuller agenda of what was and is still required was set out in the Stiglitz commission report presented to the UN general assembly, which dealt with both short- and medium-run actions, as well as providing specific proposals for diminishing financial risks and strengthening global institutions. Until such actions are pursued seriously, protecting the UK economy from a global downturn will be whistling in the wind.
Professor Richard Jolly
Lewes, Sussex

• The prime minister’s decision to announce his fears about the instability of the global financial system (Opinion, 17 November) was surprising. What was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achieve? I questioned Mario Draghi, chair of the European Systemic Risk Board, in the European parliament on this unhelpful behaviour. He refused to comment. Given the crucial role that confidence plays in the world of finance, it appears that Cameron is himself becoming a systemic risk. I do hope that he is not risking the future of the continent’s financial system merely to score some political points at home.
Molly Scott Cato MEP
Green, South West England

• Red warning lights have been flashing for some time on our fragile recovery, based on the usual housing bubble that has now burst leaving thousands of households  in dread of an interest rate rise. Running a country is not the same as running a business or a household, described by one economist as the zombie idea still walking. As the national debt is historically low, it makes sense to borrow at low interest rates to invest in the rising generation, too many of whom have been sacrificed on the altar of the deficit. Our children are tested to death but not educated to have the skills necessary to find employment, and feel they are on the scrapheap. We do not employ them, or house them, but we do lock too many of them up in overcrowded prisons where the suicide rate is rising.Another £30bn worth of cuts will reduce us to consumers of privatised public services rather that citizens in a democracy.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• Am I the only one to treat the news that the economy is not growing; as good news? We live on a planet with finite resources. I can see no difference between an economy that relies on growth and a pyramid selling scam.
Rod Thompson
Camborne, Cornwall

'Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: fdind a new practice' – Corinn ‘Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: fdind a new practice’ – Corinne Haynes. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

I am a GP, just in from work (8.40pm) after a day at my surgery. Just a normal day, not a late night. And no, I am not a martyr to the NHS. I am just trying to make sure that all my patients are seen, all my correspondence from hospital colleagues is dealt with, all my results are read and filed, all my letters written, all reports I have been asked to do (which are not strictly part of my NHS work, but there is no one else to do them) are completed. Actually, I did not do the last bit. That will have to wait until the weekend, in my own time. Am I smiling now? No, I am seething with rage at Mary Dejevsky’s hatchet job on general practice (Most of us just want a GP appointment and a friendly smile at reception, 19 November).

We get the health service we pay for. In fact, according to international studies, we get more than that: we get extremely good value for our taxes. In GPs we get, in the main, highly skilled and highly motivated people who continue to give all they can despite a fall in their income in real terms of 16%, despite a fall in the proportion of the total NHS income that goes to general practice of a similar amount, despite demands for instant access, telephone appointments and email service, and despite an ever-more-complex and ageing population to care for. We need a real debate on what we want from our health service, and how it is going to paid for. What we don’t need is being told how to do our job when we are more aware than anyone else of the shortcomings of general practice.
Dr Robert Bennett

• I was a GP partner until I left at the age of 53. My wife was a GP partner until she left at the age of 49. The stresses of trying to cope with ever-increasing demand with ever-tighter finances proved intolerable. Most receptionists are polite and professional but cannot create additional appointments with clinicians who already have a full workload from the moment they arrive at work to the moment they leave. I would suggest Mary Dejevesky arranges to spend time observing the situation in a medical practice. If she is then able to offer constructive criticism, I am sure it would be welcomed.
Dr Paul Cassidy

• I read with interest Mary Dejevsky’s column on the difficulties of getting an appointment with “your” GP. Although prior to the 2004 contract individual GP partners were responsible for a registered list of patients, the new contract gave the practice responsibility for a registered population. There has always been a tension between access, continuity and cost. Over the last 10 years, with the shift towards a consumer society, demand for instant access has been greater than for continuity, eroding the central relationship of a patient with a GP. This has been particularly true of the more vocal majority, often with less need, resulting in political moves to incentivise practices to provide quicker access at the expense of those who need continuity of care. Relationship continuity with your GP is important for patient experience, and evidence shows outcomes are improved, particularly in those with complex needs, but in addition it enhances doctor resilience, much needed at a time of workforce crisis with fewer than 25% of new graduates choosing general practice.

In my own practice we have always prioritised continuity and all patients have a named GP. In order to continue to prioritise continuity but still manage increasing demand for access, as well as an increasingly part-time workforce, we have introduced small teams so that if the patient’s named GP is not available the patient sees only one or two other GPs.

GPs have worked out for themselves what is needed, but much is subject to the whims of our political masters, out of our control. The politicians are recognising the importance of continuity, hence the introduction of a named GP for over 75s, and from April 2015, for every patient. I welcome wholeheartedly a return to placing continuity at the heart of primary care, but there will continue to be a tension between access and continuity unless more resources, both in term of money and GPs, are found.
Dr Naureen Bhatti

• Mary Dejevsky has misunderstood the information that the Care Quality Commission has published for every NHS GP practice in England. She discovered that a local practice’s “overall score was a presentable five out of six”. For each GP practice, the CQC combines 38 indicators into an overall score. It then uses this to assign a practice into one of six priority bands for inspection. Band 1 is the highest risk and Band 6 the lowest. A practice’s priority band for inspection isn’t an “overall score” and shouldn’t be interpreted as such.
Dr Alex May

• I must be lucky where in live, in a Merseyside village: I can nearly always get an appointment on the day I call (if I phone at 8:30am), the staff are pleasant, and I have no problem with repeat prescriptions. But for those who aren’t so lucky, aren’t they being defrauded? GPs are paid per head, so if a practice reaches a situation where it can’t offer an appointment, the GPs need to work longer shifts. It’s as simple as that.
David Garner
Southport, Lancashire

• Like Mary Dejevsky’s husband, I have a long-term condition – and yes, continuity does matter. Yet it can take two to three weeks to obtain an appointment with the doctor with whom I am registered. If I don’t care for that, I can join the telephone free-for-all on the dot of 8am to obtain an appointment with a newly employed salaried doctor I have never heard of. Even this has taken, on one occasion, almost 20 minutes of constantly re-dialling.

My wife has to work abroad for her company from Monday to Thursday, so Friday is her only opportunity for an appointment. She was recently offered one four weeks in advance – and not even with the doctor of her choice.Why should we be denied adequate healthcare because of the failings of our local GP practice?
Rob Stubbs
Wirral, Merseyside

• Perhaps Mary Dejevsky should just change her doctor. My local practice cannot be the only one where one can see the doctor of choice, phone for an appointment whenever convenient, discuss possibilities with a practice nurse or a friendly, knowledgeable, smiling receptionist. Any matters of practice that cause problems can be discussed at a patient participation group. It is great. Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: find a new practice.
Corinne Haynes

We write in response to your article about Andy Miller’s legal action against the Daily Mail (Media, 14 November). While we did not comment before publication, we now wish to draw some errors to your attention.

The overall thrust of your article was that the Mail had unreasonably dragged its feet when it could have resolved matters quickly and simply without recourse to the law. We dispute that interpretation.

It is wrong to suggest that Mr Miller initially only asked for an apology and modest legal costs. In fact he always sought damages, and indeed early on was seeking £200,000 – over three times what he was eventually awarded.

Associated always accepted that the article contained an inaccuracy, offered to correct it and made an offer of damages and costs. This was rejected by Mr Miller, who, using a no-win no-fee arrangement and the iniquitous After the Event insurance – in which the premium is only ever paid by the defendant if they lose – embarked on his legal case.

Associated has not appealed against several judgments in Mr Miller’s favour, rather it appealed the initial high court judgment, lost that appeal before the court of appeal and most recently was refused permission to appeal by the supreme court.

The legal action has to date taken five years, not six, since the Daily Mail were first notified by Mr Miller of his claim in July 2009 and we dispute that the costs bill would be anything like £3m.

The costs of this case have been grossly inflated by a punitively unfair system under which, through 100% success fees and ATE insurance, defendants’ costs are trebled, while claimants take no financial risk and have little incentive to settle.

In a case involving damages of £65,000, such huge sums should be of considerable concern to the entire newspaper industry, including the Guardian.
Liz Hartley
Head of editorial legal services, The Daily Mail



Sir, The appalling and brutal murders carried out in a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers this week (“Deaths push Jerusalem to brink of holy war”, Nov 19) are to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The desecration of the sacred, taking life in a house of prayer, is the absolute antithesis of faith and of what we stand for. This attack on people at prayer is yet another example from across the globe of violence in the name of religion, which undermines religious freedom. We appeal to the believers of all traditions to denounce such attacks wherever in our world they take place and to call for an end to religiously motivated violence.

The Most Rev Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
Ephraim Mirvis Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

Sir, There is, rightly, outrage at the synagogue massacre; there should also be outrage at Benjamin Netanyahu’s response, which will ensure the cycles of “getting even” go on. It seems we are lacking a statesman capable not only of halting this spiral of violence but even understanding it.

Dominic Kirkham

Sir, Foreign secretary Philip Hammond calls for peace between the Palestinians and the Jews. Surely he should be calling for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, whether the Israelis be Jewish, Druze, Christian, Bahá’í or indeed Muslim. The tragedy is that a separate state called Palestine would not have such a variety of believers.

Tamara Selig
Stanmore, Middx

Sir, I have found that when someone shouts at me, shouting back rarely makes things better. My daughter is in Israel at present. I would feel more confident about her safety if the Israeli government took a more measured approach to the inexcusable terrorist murders.

James Goldman
London NW4

Sir, Thousands of Israelis, both Jews and Muslims, including the president and heads of both religions, attended the funeral of Zidan Saif, the Druze policeman killed in the attack. In this deeply conflicted part of the Middle East where the positions of the Arab Muslim and Israeli Jewish parties appear intractable, the Druze, a Muslim community living in Israel, should be seen as a model of cooperation on which to build.

Dr R Rosenfelder
London NW6

Sir, Your correspondent Catherine Philp puts the cart before the horse (“Jerusalem braced for holy war”, Nov 20). The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours did not begin as “territorial and political,” now “morphing into religious war.” Its origins were always fundamentally religious in nature — the notion of Jewish self-determination in any part of the “Dar el-Islam” [The House of Islam] being a challenge to Islamic jurisprudence.
Israel’s chief rabbinate may have forbidden Jews from entering the Temple Mount, but other rabbis have ruled differently. In any case, it is for each individual Jew to make up his or her mind on this issue. If Christians and Moslems can pray at this site, why not Jews?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman
University of Buckingham

Sir, It is 20 years since Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslims and wounded 125 others as the prayed in the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron. His house was not demolished and though some of his supporters in the extreme right-wing Meir Kahane group were briefly held, it was the Palestinians of Hebron who were punished for this atrocity: their movements became ever more restricted, and half their mosque was converted into a synagogue.
As we rush to condemn those who have applauded the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, let us remember that Goldstein’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for Israeli settlers — more than 10,000 visited it before it was demolished by the Israeli government.

Brigid Waddams
Batcombe, Somerset

Sir, We welcome the government’s leadership in announcing that it will pledge £720 million to the Green Climate Fund. This new UN fund will channel finance to help developing countries adapt to the effects of a changing climate and invest in sustainable development.

Our organisations see first-hand how urgently this money is needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable people protect themselves from changing climate — which is already disrupting harvests. The need to support at-risk communities and habitats will intensify if emissions are not urgently reduced.

The UK joins countries including France, Germany, Japan and the US in making a significant pledge to the fund. This start-up money paves the way for a global climate agreement next year. However, if the Green Climate Fund is to fulfil its vital role, we urge all governments to continue to honour their commitments and further strengthen their ambition.

Chris Bain
Director, Cafod

Loretta Minghella
Chief executive, Christian Aid

Mark Goldring
Chief executive, Oxfam

David Bull
Executive director, Unicef UK

David Nussbaum
Chief executive, WWF-UK

Sir, Greg Hurst (“Textbook case of sloppy work” Nov 20) unfairly represents teachers as “preparing worksheets rather than refining their teaching and planning stimulating lessons”. Most teachers discover very quickly that textbooks should be used alongside a variety of resources and activities. This does include worksheets, but very rarely in productive classrooms is this the only method employed.

Liam Morgan
Head of history, Shiplake College

Sir, I am at a loss to understand why, with free movement of labour in the EU, our interest rate policy should be determined by the rate of UK employment (“Delaying a rise in interest rates now could come with a high price later”, Nov 19). Tightness of the labour market will depend also on unemployment in the rest of the EU. When labour is short, immigrants come in instead of wages going up. There will probably be ample labour supply from the EU and elsewhere for the foreseeable future. This applies to professionals as well as more general workers. Many overseas universities now use English as the language of teaching. My Dutch granddaughter recently had an English-language viva for her master’s degree in maths at a Dutch university, and earlier attended maths courses in English at the University of Stockholm.
john jackson
Keswick, Cumbria

Sir, I agree with Libby Purves (“There is no justice for those falsely accused of abuse”, Nov 20). Between 2007 and 2010 I was one of a three-person team of barristers employed by the Crown Prosecution Service in London as Specialist Rape Advocates. Our role was to provide pre-charge advice to the police in cases of sex abuse and rape and to take cases to trial once we had sanctioned charges. The idea was that the police would have one person dealing with their case, which was intended to support and reassure complainants while ensuring that weak cases were not prosecuted. Sadly, we were not deemed to be cost effective and the unit was disbanded. The police and prosecution agencies need to work together to ensure that complainants feel free to speak out but also to ensure that any person accused of such a crime has his or her side of events investigated too. It serves no one to allow weak cases to come to court and in my opinion causes further harm and distress to vulnerable victims. We need a criminal justice system that treats complainants and the accused fairly. We also to debate on how we can fund this so that the police have the training and resources to carry out investigations thoroughly and the CPS has the expertise necessary to ensure that weak cases are not put before a jury in the first place.
Sarah Le Foe
London SW6

Sir, The report (“‘You wonder if it will ever end’, says head cleared of child rape”, Nov 20) was unsettling in its description of howJames Bird and his family had suffered as a result of an abuse allegation prior to his acquittal. What was more unsettling was the comment by “a CPS spokesman” that “it was important to distinguish between evidence that a person had lied about allegations, and a jury deciding evidence was not strong enough for a conviction”.

So what happened to the principle of innocent until proved guilty? Until we have a “not proven” verdict, it would be best that (anonymous) CPS bureaucrats adhered to this principle and even, perhaps, accept that they are capable of mistakes.
Richard Rigby

Long Melford, Suffolk

Sir, Libby Purves draws readers’ attention to the effect of false allegations of sexual abuse on the lives of the accused and their families. Sadly false accusations of sexual abuse, domestic violence and drug abuse are rife during divorce proceedings in the UK Family Court. They waste court time, cause damage to already vulnerable children and are costly to defend, both emotionally and financially. The perpetrator is rarely penalised by the court and cannot be named.

Family Court reform is long overdue. The perpetrator of such serious perjury should be “named and shamed” at the conclusion of the case and costs awarded to the accused.

This might dissuade divorcing couples from resorting to serious false allegations and allow the Family Court to focus on protecting genuinely “at risk” children.
Rita Kubiak
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks

Sir, Although it is appalling that abused children were not always believed in the past, the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction.

I was recently in a dentist’s waiting room, alone, reading a magazine. A mother and her daughter came out of the treatment room. The woman went to pay and the child wandered into the waiting room. I looked up, said hello, and went on reading. The child ran back to her mother and I heard her say “Mummy, that lady asked me if I wanted some sweets but I said no.” The woman then told her she was a very good girl.

Had I been an elderly man, and in another setting, the outcome could have been very different.

Elizabeth Clarke

Sir, Libby Purves draws attention to the consequences of our focus on the predominance of “victims”. It would appear that an allegation of sexual assault amounts to a statement of fact, ie, the facts are as the “victim” states them to be. It is an inconvenient fact that the allegation might be open to interpretation, unsupported by evidence and, experience tells us, could be a lie. It is dangerous to make the “victims” views the sole arbiter of action,which seems to be the current trend.
Jim Howard
Newton Abbot, Devon

Sir, How times have changed (“Bring in law to protect under-12s home alone”, Nov 15). I was left alone in our house in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, just after the war when I was aged 6-8 years. I had my little dog, Rex, with me. Once I played with a lighted newspaper and a towel over the fire caught light. Sometimes I sat in a corner shop doorway with another lad until the pubs closed; we were safe as houses. I think.
Bill Oxley
Appleton, Warrington


Benefits and EU migration; the harmful NHS Bill; why pubs are closing, and Sir John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite who lets his hair down on screen.

David Cameron is likely to come under pressure on the subject of Europe

Amid fears that more disaffected MPs will defect to Ukip, on the eve of the Rochester by-election, strategist says David Cameron ‘would want to recommend leaving’ if a better deal could not be agreed for Britain Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 21 Nov 2014


SIR – David Lidington, the minister for Europe, says that Norway and Switzerland have to accept free movement of people from the EU without having a vote to influence policy (report, November 20). The British Government’s guidance for people moving to Switzerland says: “If you apply for welfare benefits, you will lose your right to remain in Switzerland.”

That sounds like the right kind of freedom of movement to me.

Guy Lachlan
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – There will always be fundamental irreconcilable differences between our British view of the freedom of movement of people into our country and the view of the rest of the European countries.

We are an island nation which has defended its shores throughout history and, until the open-door policy under the last Labour government, this had given us a feeling of security and control.

The opening of our borders coincided with the rise of international terrorism and the failure of immigration controls to identify thousands of illegal migrants entering and disappearing in our country.

England’s population density of 419 people per square kilometre is the highest of any of the main European countries, and compares with Germany at 233, Italy 192, Denmark 125, Poland 124, France 111, Portugal 109, Spain 92, and Greece 81.

To continue to allow unhindered access to this country is unacceptable, and if the EU decides to make this its bottom line, then it will persuade many of us who up to now have been reluctant to consider an exit from Europe that there is no other option.

Brian Storey
Longstowe, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Should British EU renegotiations go badly, Oliver Letwin “would want to recommend leaving”. Why the weasel words? Surely he would either recommend it, or he wouldn’t. Who or what might stop him? Is he sending us a coded message about David Cameron’s real intentions?

R A McWhirter
Zurich, Switzerland

SIR – Mr Letwin cannot guarantee that renegotiation with the EU will be successful. However, I can guarantee that we will be told that it has been successful.

Mr Cameron is determined Britain will stay in the EU. His record is such that one cannot believe a word he says to the contrary. Unsuccessful renegotiations will be massaged in the same way as the debacle over the EU’s “surprise bill” for 1.7 billion.

David Pound
Charwelton, Northamptonshire

SIR – “EU must change or we quit” says your headline on Mr Letwin’s remarks. I have a better idea: we quit now and rejoin if it does change.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

Harmful NHS Bill

SIR – As NHS doctors, we are deeply concerned about the misguided and potentially disruptive National Health Service Bill being debated today.

The Bill’s proponents claim it will remove competition from the NHS and guard against “privatisation” by repealing key clauses of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

We believe this would be a backwards step for patient care, reorganising the NHS in a top-down way at a time when it needs to be looking ahead to the huge challenges of the future. These were set out in the NHS England Five Year Forward View, and we urge all politicians to support it rather than using the NHS as a political football.

Suggesting that GP commissioners have a “privatisation agenda” is an ill-informed attack on the clinical leadership which improves services and helps patients.

Dr Michael Dixon
Chairman, NHS Alliance
Dr Jonathan Steel
Dr Barbara Rushton

GP and Chairman, South Eastern Hampshire CCG
Dr Ivan Camphor
GP and medical secretary of the Mid-Mersey Local Medical Committee
Dr Jude Mahadarachi
Dr P Charlson
Dr Gillian Francis
Dr Andrew Hardie
Dr Priyada Pandya
Dr John Mosley
Mr Sheo Tibrewal

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson
Consultant Hepatologist

Parental blushes

SIR – Paddington is rated PG. Having been to see the film Mr Turner, which has a 12 rating (with accompanying adult), I wonder how anyone could feel that the gratuitous sex scene would be suitable for any age.

Annie May
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Hit and miss exchanges

SIR – I took part in four foreign exchanges in the Seventies. After graduating, I took a postgraduate degree in France, which would have been impossible without the knowledge absorbed through exchange.

The language skills I learnt have been enormously useful throughout my professional life.

N R Clift
London EC2

SIR – The day my German exchange arrived in 1976, Field Marshal Montgomery died. Throughout her visit, the television, radio and press were filled with Second World War stories, endless images of tanks, battles and Nazis.

These days, I speak passable French and Italian but no German.

Hilary Bentley
Alderney, Channel Islands

Why pubs are closing

SIR – Even if the Small Business Bill is passed, I do not believe it will make a noticeable difference to the rate at which pubs are closing. The proposed legislation affects tenants of companies that own more than 500 pubs, so it will have an impact only on a small proportion of pubs.

But replacing beer ties with higher rents could actually be a positive development. In the current system, tenants pay breweries or pubcos for every pint served. The more beer that is sold, the higher the payment. Should the legislation go through, causing breweries and pubcos to offset their loss of income by charging higher rents, every pint sold in excess of the expected sales will result in extra profit for the publican.

The fact is that there are too many pubs. Supply outstrips the demand, so inevitably some publicans struggle to make a living. If the Government is simply trying to stem the alarming rate at which pubs are reported to close, it would do better to ensure that the economy remains buoyant.

Larissa Lowe
Thomas Eggar solicitors
Crawley, West Sussex

Online GP errors

SIR – Readers should be aware that information in the Care Quality Commission ranking of GPs online is not always to be trusted.

My own practice was downgraded because the CQC thought that none out of 68 patients asked in the latest GP Patient Survey was able to obtain an appointment or speak to a GP or nurse. The correct figure (available on the GP Patient Survey website) is 63 out of 68 patients, which, at 92 per cent, is the second best score in the county. As they say: garbage in, garbage out.

The Care Quality Commission calls this process “intelligent monitoring”, but I’m not sure that “intelligent” is the word I would use.

Dr Jonathan Sleath

A Pre-Raphaelite lets his hair down on screen

SIR – At a recent screening of Effie Gray, I was interested to see portrayed a long-haired and bearded John Everett Millais (above right).

The John Ruskin portrait by Millais, which was shown being painted in the film, is dated 1853-4. Contemporary representations of Millais by William Holman Hunt in pastel and chalk (left), and a medallion by Alexander Munro both show him clean-shaven with short hair. He appears similarly in photographs. On the other hand, the more hirsute Barbizon artist Jean-François Millet sported a fine head of long hair and full facial adornments. Was this artistic licence?

Martin Adlam
Winforton, Herefordshire

Potholes and a dearth of buses outside London

SIR – This week, many south-western roads and fields have been flooded. In Devon, most roads are filled with potholes.

The Dawlish railway line has yet again been under siege by storms and the new sea wall has been damaged.

Urban councils receive 40 per cent more funding per head from the central government than rural councils do, which means that Devon county council has to choose to prioritise services for the needy above road maintenance.

Londoners enjoy a massive per-head public investment in transport, and have more transport links available to them than anywhere else in the country. In 2011, for example, the per capita subsidy for Londoners was £2,730, while in the South West it was just £19. The North will get a billion-pound boost from HS2 and HS3.

Is it any wonder that the rest of Britain feels oppressed by the metropolitan elite?

Linda Hughes
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – While motorists will surely welcome a new government initiative to improve Britain’s roads one would hope that this £15 billion will not be spent entirely on widening motorways and brand-new road schemes.

Throughout the country, the majority of existing roads are in a deplorable state and urgently in need of major repair.

Richard James
Nailsea, Somerset

SIR – “They walk between stations in Paris” is the excuse for terminating HS2 at Euston and not St Pancras for onward travel to Europe.

The distance between these stations – five furlongs – is too short to take the Undergound or bus and too long for some with luggage to walk, possibly in the rain. Some form of free shuttle, light railway or covered travelator would be helpful.

Stuart Robertson
Aboyne, Aberdeenshire

Bank fine? Not fine

SIR – Royal Bank of Scotland has been fined millions of pounds for its computer failings.

Because of the bail–out in 2008, the taxpayer owns two thirds of RBS. Thus the taxpayer pays the fine.

Those responsible pay nothing. It’s a meaningless paper–shuffling exercise.

Ian Anderson
Wick, Gloucestershire

Gnashing sachets

SIR –I’d like a ban on all sauces produced in sachets.

They are nearly impossible to open without the use of your teeth, and then produce a most unsatisfying smudge of your favourite condiment. I am not sure about their green credentials either.

Sam Kirkaldy
Sevenoaks, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – When the original water charges were announced the Government went to great lengths to inform the public that the charges had been set by an independent regulator. Much play was made of the word “independent”. The new water charging regime was determined by the Government not the independent regulator. Why do we need a regulator when the Government for political reasons takes unto itself the role of setting the water charging arrangements and tariffs. Sadly the “independence” of the regulator is another casualty of this great water debacle. – Yours , etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – If memory serves, the justification given by the Government for water charges was to conserve this wonderful natural resource by charging per unit, encouraging us to be economical in its use. It now seems the new charges are to pay the salaries at Irish Water. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – The news that local authorities will be obliged to pursue council tenants who do not pay their water charges should not unduly worry anyone, if past experience is anything to go by (“Council tenants face rent increases and possible eviction if water bills not paid”, November 20th).

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Kildare County Council levied water and refuse charges. There was a well-organised campaign of non-compliance, and such was its scale that the local authority was reluctant to take people to court. It threatened to have the charges levied against the property so that in the event of a sale they could be recovered.

Of course, this never happened, which meant that those of us foolish enough to have paid them effectively made a “voluntary contribution” to the authority’s coffers. If this was the experience when it pursued money it was owed, it’s hard to see a more enthusiastic response when it’s someone else’s money. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – We have a known cap on charges to 2019 and a promise of a future cap beyond. Against that background, one has to ask the question why we are spending millions of euro on water meters and their ongoing installation, which is a red rag to a bull to the general public when their value and use are rendered obsolete by these new proposals. – Yours, etc,


Foxrock, Dublin 18.

Sir, – The row about water charges puts me in mind of a trait that has been shared by successive Fine Gael leaders. That of naivety. From Fitzgerald to Bruton to Kenny, Fine Gael leaders have steadfastly believed in the decency and good sense of the Irish citizen and legislated accordingly. They all came a cropper as a result. Fianna Fáil leaders like Haughey and Ahern have always had an instinctive understanding of the Irish people. They knew that we don’t want to pay more for decent public services – we want disposable income and lots of it. And, boy, did Bertie oblige us. As the health service stagnated we gorged ourselves on treats – drink, restaurants, holidays and cars. We all drank at the trough and we loved it.

With regard to Irish Water, Enda Kenny needs to understand what Fianna Fáil leaders have always understood: disposable income matters to the Irish; public services do not. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Colm McCarthy writes, “There are numerous industries in Ireland which must inevitably be operated as monopolies. These include electricity transmission and distribution, the gas network and the water industry” (“Water charging arrangements will prove to be temporary”, Opinion & Analysis, November 20th).

Equating finite, concentrated, fossil fuel and a renewable, widely distributed resource like water in this context is guff of the highest order. A citizen may haul water from a well with no more capital than the price of a bucket; comparing this to drilling rigs, gas wells, pipelines, pumping stations and the capital-intensive infrastructure required to extract, process, move, store and deliver fossil fuel is laughable.

In Ireland tens of thousands of households provide their own water individually, or collectively as part of community-owned cooperatives. In France, 36,681 communes provide drinking water and manage waste water. Only in Ireland, and perhaps North Korea, would public administrators and academics think that the best way to deliver a widely distributed, renewable resource to a widely distributed population is by an “efficient” centralised monopoly. The real surprise is not that Irish Water turned into another HSE but that anyone thought any other outcome was likely. – Yours, etc,


Kilnaleck, Co Cavan.

Sir, – This week, Senator Paul Bradford warned us, “We must not give in to mob rule now of extreme left-wing socialists who look back to a panacea of the Soviet Union and North Korea”. Noel Coonan TD then warned us “we are facing what is potentially an Isis situation”.

And they say Leinster House is a dull, humourless place! – Yours, etc,


Chapelizod, Dublin 20.

Sir, – Has the Government calculated how much it will cost the exchequer to administer the €100 rebate or has it not thought that far ahead? – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – “Taoiseach tells Ministers to go out and sell revised water charges to public” (Front Page, November 20th). Good luck with that one, lads. I just hope you’re not on commission. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I refer to Kathy Sheridan’s article “Telling the grim truth about prostitution” (Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). As a “much-loved daughter of middle Ireland” myself, I strongly oppose the views expressed and the overall tone of the piece.

Poverty drives women into the industry, and it is this which we “lefty liberals” must seek to eradicate, not consenting adults having sex. It’s very clear that Ms Sheridan finds sex work distasteful, to put it mildly. However, this debate is not about how any one person feels about the trade, it’s about the right to work in safety, a right currently denied and which will continue to be denied under the new legislation.

The further assertion made that “significant numbers are drawn in as children under 18” is false, and used by abolitionists around the world. Last year Turn off the Red Light repeatedly claimed that there were 19 victims of child prostitution in the Republic of Ireland. The then minster for justice Alan Shatter told them to stop using that figure because it simply was not true.

Finally, Ms Sheridan speaks of those who can’t be doing with “peer-reviewed studies”. I find that assertion ironic, because the evidence from around the world points to decriminalisation as a preferred model to protect the most vulnerable in the industry. That evidence comes from the World Health Organisation, the UN Aids body, and medical journals, to name but a few.

It’s clear from recent communications from Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s office that it is her intention to press ahead with the criminalisation of clients. Were this to happen, those who are already vulnerable will suffer all the more, as I explained to the Minister in person last week. In the end, good law must never be based on an ideological sending of a “message”, rather it should be based on evidence. Evidence which is in abundance. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I’ve never watched Love/Hate so I’ll have to accept Kathy Sheridan’s description of episodes from it. Certainly, if the State hadn’t made the disastrous mistake of criminalising recreational drugs – if drugs were  taxed, controlled and regulated, with addictive drugs available to registered addicts to be taken in a controlled setting – fewer people of whatever social class would be forced into prostitution to pay for them. And it’s undoubtedly true that prostitution – like indeed many other lifestyle-choices – is not a path that most people would want to encourage members of their family to go down.

The proposed “Swedish model” legislation will hurt people who have no economic alternative to selling sexual services, as well as customers who may get caught in the net. (Significantly, it will offer some disabled people, who may have no other outlet for physical intimacy, an unpalatable choice between criminality and perpetual celibacy.)

The example Kathy Sheridan gives of the illegality of the trade in human organs is not well chosen, since if the proposed legislation were applied to that trade, it would result in the absurdity that I would be allowed to sell my kidney, but someone suffering from kidney failure would be arrested for trying to buy it!

This is a complex area and the discussion needs to take full account of the complexities. The debate should of course objectively weigh up the relevant evidence, but it should also focus on the central issue of the limitations of law regarding voluntary, private relations between adults, without being sidelined into other issues. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Prostitution is a gender issue, a class issue and an ethnic issue. It is overwhelmingly men who buy sex, and mainly poor women from impoverished regions of the world who are involved in prostitution. As someone who for many years has been involved in researching prostitution and violence against women, my concern is that forthcoming Irish legislation must challenge the subordination and degradation of women, especially in relation to those from disadvantaged groups.

The flow of foreign women into Ireland for the purpose of prostitution started in the early 2000s, and coincided with the Irish prostitution industry moving from street to indoor prostitution. What we now have in Ireland is a highly lucrative, internet-based, indoor prostitution trade worth an estimated €180 million. The networks of control are highly internationalised. Irish indigenous criminals are linked to eastern European, central European and African gangs. These networks ensure a highly ethnicised prostitution sector in Ireland. A staggering 51 separate nationalities of women are involved, with between 800 and 1,000 women engaging in prostitution at any one time.

Prostitution is not only about payment of money for sex. It is about economic and sexual power and the ability to give commands and control women. It assumes that men are entitled to have their sexual needs met through the paid bodies of women, and that there should be a special group of women available for this purpose.

The psychological, physical and emotional damage that prostitution causes to women is well documented.

The prostitution industry is based on inequalities between women and men. Such inequalities arise from poverty, the increasing sexualisation and pornographication of female bodies in popular culture, and from histories of violent abuse in both childhood and adulthood that underpin many women’s entry into the sex industry.

Prostitution is, therefore, both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. Criminalising the purchase of sexual acts, decriminalising those who sell, and providing specialist support to women to be able to leave prostitution are measures that directly address gender inequalities. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – As the immigration debate returns to the forefront of American political debate, I note that you refer in several of your reports to “undocumented” Irish people in the United States (“Obama paves way for illegal Irish immigrants to visit home”, Front Page, November 21st).

Do you also refer to migrants who are illegally resident in Ireland as “undocumented”? “Undocumented” is a euphemism that seeks to obscure the fact that the people being described are illegal immigrants.

There is lots of room for debate about whether the immigration policies of the United States – or of Ireland – are just. But weasel words never help. – Yours, etc,


Washington, DC.

Sir, – I see the Taoiseach has called on the US president to allow undocumented Irish immigrants to return home on visits pending a new immigration and citizenship system being established. Perhaps as an encouragement to Mr Obama, Mr Kenny he would do the same for undocumented immigrants into Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Cabra, Dublin 7.

Sir, – The Taoiseach hopes US president Barack Obama will help the undocumented Irish in the United States by allowing them a path to citizenship and the right to travel back and forth to Ireland in the meantime. If that is the case then there would be no difference between the privileges of an illegal immigrant and a legal one.

Why is there an expectation that undocumented Irish should have such “rights” when they wilfully violated the law by immigrating illegally to the US in the first place? Like Ireland, there is no guaranteed right for anyone born outside of the US to live there but only through the application process put into place. The Taoiseach and I would surely agree that Ireland’s borders and immigration processes should also be respected.

The Taoiseach could also do a great deal of service to Irish citizens by holding them to a higher standard than lawbreaking. While it is easy to feel sorry for those who can’t travel home to their native land for a friend’s wedding or a family funeral, let us not forget their irresponsibility in not thinking things through long before overstaying a 90-day holiday visa. – Yours, etc,



New Jersey.

Sir, – In light of the US decision to seek to regularise the lives of thousands of undocumented Irish living in America, can our Government be inspired by this and regulate the lives of asylum seekers in our country who have for years been left living in limbo awaiting a decision about their case, living in unsuitable accommodation, without the right to work and having to survive on less than €20 a week? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 24.

Sir, – Regarding Frank McNally’s droll piece about the use or non-use of the humble comma (An Irishman’s Diary, November 21st), I’m reminded of that classic newspaper account of a documentary about country music legend Merle Haggard, which contained this quite ambiguous sentence: “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall”. I think the use of the Oxford comma in that particular sentence would have eliminated any misunderstanding about the relationship between Messrs Haggard, Kristofferson, and Duvall. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, — Further to Ronan McGreevy’s report “Call for Dublin’s Spire to be renamed ‘An Claidheamh Soluis’” (November 16th), why rename a superfluous monstrosity which is neither inspiring or enlightening? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

Every now and again you hear someone say that a person ‘needs a hug’. It’s become a sarcastic put-down, depicting a needy or over- precious, self-involved mini-me mentality.

Given the battering we as a people have taken, no one should be surprised at the need for a little TLC. In fact, the Civil Defence should be on every street corner handing out comfort blankets and we should be getting envelopes with happy pills – remember the iodine? The default position for most of us when put under pressure is to pull up the drawbridge and retreat behind whatever emotional shield we can find. As REM sang, ‘everybody hurts sometime’. But where do we go to find the strength to keep on keeping on?

The voice from the pulpit has spoken over the heads of the people for too long, it now bounces back with a hollow ring. Pope Francis is trying very hard but the old guard are holding him back. The Dalai Lama is also living proof that rocky is the road of the peace maker. Perhaps we have become too used to being followers. If we just reached out more to each other – having first reached into ourselves – we might find the connections to the real truths that give meaning to our private struggles. We are the culmination of the efforts of all who have gone before us, and our children need us to lay down safe and peaceful paths.

Didn’t some long-haired bohemian from another time say love thy neighbour; and then there was that Scouser who said ‘all you need is love’.

A smile, a baby’s gurgle, a child’s reaching arms, a hand-shake or even a friendly greeting can be enough to lift a leaden heart. So let none of us say we can’t do our bit.

M O’Brien

Greystones, Co Wicklow

When will Kenny see ‘reason’?

I have spent the last two days listening to my Government implying I am not being “reasonable” with respect to the current water charges issue. My husband and I both work full-time so we can afford to run our modest family home and pay for the significant mortgage shortfall on the apartment we unfortunately bought in 2008 before the property crash (which the government and banks directly caused). Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

We pay property tax and tax on any rental income on a property we do not want, but which we cannot sell due to negative equity and the fact that the Government has done nothing to help us and people like us. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

I have my child in full-time childcare which breaks my heart every day. I also cannot give my child a brother or sister as we cannot afford the childcare costs it would incur with us both having to work to meet bills. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

I spent eight years gaining an advanced education in order to contribute to this economy and earn enough money to support my family. Despite a recent salary increase, I receive only €60 per month extra take-home pay due to the significantly increased PAYE and USC I must pay. I still cannot afford to pay into a pension fund despite being in my 30s now. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

And now, because I am refusing to spend what very little disposable income I have on yet another tax for water charges – which I already pay for many times over in the array of other taxes I pay – Mr Kenny and his Government imply that I, and others like me, are unreasonable. Shame on them. Enough is enough. It is Mr Kenny and this Government who are not being “reasonable”.

Elaine McSherry

Dublin 24

Time to call off the protests

The anti-austerity, anti-water charges groups have succeeded in their campaign. They have to be credited with harnessing the public anger and forcing the Government to make the changes recently announced.

But now they should fold up the tent and get off the stage.

We have to be honest and recognise that we have to pay something towards the provision of clean, drinkable water. There is no pot of money available through higher or alternative taxes. They have won the war; let them keep their powder dry for future battles.

Eamonn Kitt

Tuam, Co Galway

New package, same charges

With great fanfare, the Government announced the new water charges on Wednesday.

At first glance, I thought it was good, with the cost being reduced to €3.70 per 1,000 litres, plus the payment of the €100 ‘conservation grant’ – but how that is going to encourage conservation, I have no idea.

On a quick calculation I estimated that I would be paying less than originally envisaged, when the first charges were announced – or so I thought. Then later, I realised that they were abolishing the 30,000 free litres for each household and the water charges tax relief announced in the last Budget.

So, I re-calculated and found that if a two-person household used 70,270 litres in a year, this would cost €260, less the ‘conservation grant’, meaning a net cost of €160.

Then I calculated the same usage under the original charges, allowing myself the free 30,000 litres, and charging the remaining 40,270 litres at €4.88 per 1,000 litres and arrived at a sum of €196.52, less tax relief of €39.30, giving me a net cost of €157.22.

Unbelievably, the new charging structure is costing households more, where they only use up to 70,270 litres, and it is the same result for single-occupant households where they only use up to 43,240 litres. The way the new charges were announced, you would have thought that every household was going to have lower charges. Not so, and this Government thinks it has all been put to bed now.

Frank Fitzpatrick

Portmarnock, Co Dublin

At least we can still have a bath

So convinced am I that Enda is right, I did it. So convinced am I that Leo has the health of the nation back on track, I did it. And so convinced am I that Michael will have money gushing back into the economy, I did it.

Yes folks, I stared down my own financial demons, ripped off the financial shackles that held me down so long, looked to the future with confidence and, and . . . had a bath. On behalf of the Irish people, I would like to thank the Troika for bringing us back to the Promised Land.

Eugene McGuinness

Address with editor

Balance so lacking in the media

The hysteria being promoted by the Irish media in relation to the water charges in a country that has had an €80bn bailout and is, as a consequence over-borrowed, shows the Irish media in very bad light.

The lack of any balance in the coverage of the Irish water issue is nearly as damaging to the health of our democracy as the failure of most of the Irish media to challenge the decisions of the powerful during the boom, since those decisions eventually bankrupted the country and necessitated the bailout.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Pledge to protect our children

I was delighted to see the Taoiseach found time to meet Louise O’ Keeffe, who won her long struggle for justice in the European Court of Human Rights. After listening to her interview on ‘Prime Time’, I do hope Mr Kenny and his Government take on board every word this brave lady had to say and come up with some positive answers before Christmas, as promised. Remember, this is about protecting vulnerable children in our schools.

Brian Mc Devitt

Glenties, Co Donega

Irish Independent


November 21, 2014

21 November 2014 Vet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I take Fluff and Kitten to the Vet. I do the Post Office and the Co Op

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


  1. s

The Duchess of Alba – obituary

The 18th Duchess of Alba was a flamboyant Spanish aristocrat who married both an unfrocked priest and a man 24 years her junior

The Duchess of Alba with her third husband, Alfonso Diez Carabantes

The Duchess of Alba with her third husband, Alfonso Diez Carabantes Photo: EUROPA PRESS/GETTY

12:18PM GMT 20 Nov 2014


The 18th Duchess of Alba, who has died aged 88, was Spain’s richest woman and a regular fixture in Hola! magazine and other gossip publications on account of her forthright character and colourful private life.

In later life, with her flamboyant manner and shock of frizzy hair (sometimes dyed a whimsical red, at other times a snowy white), the thrice-married Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart fascinated and appalled in almost equal measure.

Known for her piping, querulous voice and often outrageous clothes, she was frequently photographed at society weddings and at bullfights. Her passions were flamenco, horses and painting; she became the subject of a television series and a flamenco show based around her life.

Then, of course, there was her status as an exemplar of the plastic surgeon’s art. She always denied needing any assistance to enhance features which had once earned her a reputation as a beauty; and any suggestion to the contrary was considered an intrusion too far by most of the Spanish press. None the less, a website specialising in such matters claimed to have discovered evidence of a facelift, brow lift, rhinoplasties, lip injections, fat injections to the face and multiple injections of Botox. “She overdid it, obviously,” a family friend was quoted as saying.

The Spanish media estimated the duchess’s wealth at between €600 million and €3.5 billion; her landholdings were said to be so vast that she would have been able to cross Spain from north to south without setting foot on anyone else’s property.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, she had more titles than any other person on the planet, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 22 times and a marquesa 24 times. Yet the Duchess always insisted she was not rich: “I have a lot of artworks, but I can’t eat them, can I?” she once said. Apart from thousands of paintings by Goya, Velazquez, Titian and others lining the walls of her numerous palaces, her collection included a first edition of Don Quixote, Columbus’s first map of America and the last will and testament of Ferdinand the Catholic, the father of Catherine of Aragon.

As head of the five centuries-old House of Alba, the Duchess’s privileges included not having to kneel before the Pope and the right to ride a horse into Seville cathedral. It was also said that, owing to her illustrious lineage, she was entitled to demand ceremonial precedence over the Spanish royal family. But she made little use of these historic perks, preferring the delights of a high-rolling lifestyle that began in England where her father, the 17th Duke of Alba, was Spanish ambassador during the Second World War.

The Duchess of Alba, c. 1947 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva Falcó y Gurtubay was born in her family’s neo-Classical Palacio de Liria in Madrid on March 28 1926, the only child of Don Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba, and Doña María del Rosario de Silva y Gurtubay, 9th Marquesa of San Vicente del Barco. Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.

On her father’s side, Cayetana was a descendant of King James II of England through his illegitimate son James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick, born of a relationship with Arabella Churchill, only sister of the Duke of Marlborough. This made her a distant relative of both Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales, descendants of Arabella’s daughter Henrietta Fitz-James.

Other ancestors included Don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, known as “the Iron Duke” on account of the ruthlessness with which he put down revolt as governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1567 to 1573, and Doña María del Pilar de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba, a muse of Francisco Goya.

Cayetana did not have a happy childhood. Her mother died when she was eight, and three years later her father (a fervent monarchist who had served briefly under King Alfonso XIII as minister for foreign affairs in the government of General Dámaso Berenguer) took her to London, where he had been appointed ambassador for the Spanish Nationalist government.

The Duchess of Alba on her marriage to Don Pedro Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, 1947 (REX)

He was still the ambassador in 1940 when the British government recognised Franco’s regime, and the pair remained in London during the Second World War. In 1945, however, the Duke resigned his post, declaring that the Franco regime was “harmful to the best interests of Spain” after negotiations with the exiled pretender to the Spanish throne, Don Juan de Bourbon, whose claims the Duke had supported, broke down.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Albas’ Liria Palace had been occupied by the communists, and for that reason it was almost completely destroyed by German bombers in 1936. The Duke had taken the precaution of storing its priceless collection of paintings in the cellars of the Prado and the Bank of Spain, but around half the palace’s literary collection was destroyed and many other items were looted. On his return to Spain the Duke set about rebuilding the palace according to the original plans, work carried on after his death by Cayetana. It was largely due to her persistence that the palace remained a private residence.

Cayetana was considered a beauty in her youth and was reputed to have had a lively love life. In 1947 she married Don Pedro Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, a naval officer and son of the Duke of Sotomayor, in a ceremony at Seville Cathedral which cost an estimated £2 million in today’s terms and was described at the time as “the most expensive wedding in the world”. The ceremony was so grand that there was concern it would overshadow the nuptials of Britain’s future Queen, held a month later in austerity Britain.

The bride wore a white satin gown modelled on the dress worn by Napoleon III’s bride Empress Eugénie. After the ceremony the couple travelled through cheering crowds to the bride’s family’s Seville palace of Las Dueñas in a carriage pulled by mules.

The Duchess of Alba in 2011 (REX)

Cayetana succeeded as Duchess of Alba on her father’s death in 1953, and she and her first husband had five sons and a daughter. However, the father of her fourth son, Fernando, was widely rumoured to have been not her husband but the Sevillian flamenco dancer Antonio el Bailarin, who acknowledged his parentage in posthumously published memoirs. When the information was subsequently repeated in an article in the Spanish magazine Interviú, however, a Spanish court awarded the Duchess €90,000 in damages, describing the offending piece as an assault on her honour.

Her first husband died in 1972, and six years later the Duchess shocked Spanish society by marrying Jesus Aguirre y Ortiz de Zarate, an unfrocked Jesuit priest and freethinking intellectual 11 years her junior who had once been her confessor. It was not so much his dubious religious credentials that were considered scandalous, however, as the fact that he was illegitimate.

Yet their marriage was happy – so much so, in fact, that when Aguirre sent three love poems he had written for Cayetana to Julio Iglesias, asking him to set them to music, the singer refused, considering them too steamy. When, in 1988, the gossip pages reported strains in the marriage, Cayetana, then 62, responded: “We are happy, as happy as before. And, if you must know, we make love every night.” Except that “make” and “love” were not the words used.

After Aguirre’s death, in 2001, it was generally assumed that the Duchess, now in her mid-70s, would live her twilight years alone. But a few years later she was reported to be dating Alfonso Diez Carabantes, a minor civil servant in Spain’s department of social security and a man 24 years her junior. “When you get to know someone and you like them, you end up falling in love a little and I fell in love with him,” she revealed in a magazine interview in 2008.

On several occasions the Duchess’s children, apparently fearful of being separated from some of their inheritance by a man portrayed by detractors as a gold-digger, were said to have blocked the couple’s plans to tie the knot. In 2008 the House of Alba issued a statement saying that the relationship “was based on a long friendship and there are no plans to marry”. In June 2011 the Duchess’s youngest son, Cayetano, announced that his mother could not marry for a third time “owing to questions of historic responsibility”. At one point Spain’s King Juan Carlos was alleged to have telephoned the Duchess to urge her to think again.

The Duchess was resentful of her children’s interference, noting, pointedly, that they had all been divorced; so, by implication, they had no right to give her moral lectures. “I don’t know why my children are causing problems,” she complained on Spanish radio. “We aren’t hurting anyone. Alfonso doesn’t want anything, he’s renounced everything. He doesn’t want anything but me.”

In August 2011, however, the prospect of a damaging rift in Spain’s most prominent noble house appeared to have been averted after a deal was made under which the Duchess agreed to divide up her fortune between her children in advance of her death — and her groom renounced any possible claim to her wealth.

She and Diez then married, and after the wedding in Seville she entertained onlookers by kicking off her shoes and hiking up her dress to perform a flamenco dance outside her palace.

The Duchess is survived by her husband and children. Her eldest son, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart, 14th Duke of Huéscar, born in 1948, inherits the Alba titles.

The 18th Duchess of Alba, born March 28 1926, died November 19 2014


Members of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg ‘Abolish the Strasbourg parliament,’ suggests John Rowe. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Alistair Darling is right to stress the disastrous consequences of Britain leaving the EU (We’re better together with Europe, so must learn from Scotland, 18 November), and he’s just as correct in saying that those of us who recognise this (at least 50% of the population, according to the polls) need to get much, much noisier about saying so, while stressing the need for significant reform.

However, Mr Darling remains as obscure as most politicians and commentators on what such EU reform might look like. A far greater emphasis on growth, sure – but what would that actually look like? And what about the structural issues that underpin many people’s distrust of Europe? How about the Labour party adopting a policy that says we should: a) abolish the Strasbourg parliament, b) reduce the number of MEPs by a third, c) reduce their ridiculous salaries by a third, d) reduce their even more absurd expenses by half, and e), most important, abolish EU commissioners and make MEPs earn their corn by taking full responsibility for strategy and policy. They would have to elect their own president and allocate areas of responsibility. That might seriously reduce the unpopular movement towards ever-greater integration by ridding us of the unelected bureaucrats and the behind-closed-doors horse-trading about positions of power.

What savings and a huge increase in democratic accountability there would be. I’d then be interested to know what my north-west MEPs were actually doing and voting for, as well as who they had supported for key posts. It won’t happen, I know, but we might be surprised to find how many people across the EU thought it a good idea.
John Rowe

• One might have thought that creating a strong cross-party alliance on EU membership might come in handy in a future referendum, so what purpose is served by comparing the Scottish National party (pro-Europe) to Ukip (anti-Europe)? Labour needs to set aside its resentment of the SNP’s success if it is to win the argument for continued EU membership, and must come up with more convincing arguments than “reform” and “jobs and growth”, which are already EU priorities. The EU is pursuing similar neoliberal policies to those of New Labour, so what reforms does Labour think are now needed to convince British voters that the EU is acting in their interests? The Better Together campaign nearly failed in Scotland because it had no positive vision, and only rescued the situation through last-minute threats and promises that may or may not be delivered. So what is Labour’s vision for Britain in Europe?
Mary Braithwaite
Wye, Kent

• John Major claims that the current British anti-EU hysteria “is not a political ploy to gain advantages and concessions” (Major urges EU to realise that British frustration is ‘no game’, 14 November). But that is exactly what it is.

The chances of Britain leaving are minuscule. Should opinion polls indicate such a possibility in a referendum, the British establishment – which benefits greatly from EU membership – will press the panic button, as it did so successfully before the Scottish referendum. The media will suddenly be filled with daily horror stories of impending doom, economic collapse and isolation outside the EU.

London, the most global city in the world, would be more likely to secede from Ukip-land than accept Britain leaving Europe.
Jakob von Uexkull
Founder, World Future Council

• With all respect to the NUT, the GMB and the other signatories to the letter regarding the commission’s reactions to a proposed European Citizens’ Initiative regarding the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (We demand the right to challenge the TTIP, 18 November), a lawsuit would no doubt be costly and would not get very far. Far better to lodge their protest as a petition, under the terms of article 227 of the EU treaty, and ensure that the voice of citizens is heard where it belongs, in the European parliament. Indeed the parliament has, not surprisingly, registered several on this subject.

Not so long ago more than 2 million people signed a petition to the European parliament against Acta, the anti-piracy agreement, and that did not do so badly, having ensured an animated and well-informed debate in the petitions committee before a landmark vote in plenary session.

It does not help to confuse, as the authors also did, a petition and an ECI, but it is a common failing. The right to petition is a fundamental right of EU citizenship and open to all citizens and residents; the ECI, although defined in article 11 of the Lisbon treaty, is subject to an additional (and in my view too cumbersome) regulation that the commission has entirely respected in its decision. Check out the Europarl web-site; it is quite transparent.
David Lowe
Head of secretariat, petitions committee, European parliament

Peabody Trust housing for key workers in Baron's Place, London Peabody Trust housing for key workers in Baron’s Place, London. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

Nik Wood’s assertion that Peabody is contributing to London’s affordable housing crisis (Letters, 14 November) is incorrect. In fact we are building thousands of new affordable homes for Londoners. We are also investing £150m in improvements to residents’ homes and estates. Housing need extends across all tenures, and while we continue to provide new social housing we also provide intermediate and market rent as well as homes for sale on the open market. We also spend around £4m a year on community investment activities.

The rents on the properties we acquired from the crown estate in 2011 are intermediate rents for key workers capped at 60% of the market rent, with many tenants paying significantly less than that. Despite running these homes at a loss – spending more money than we receive in rental income – we have not applied the maximum rent increases set out in the sale agreement for the last two years. We are cutting rent increases again next year, and have reduced the rent where the level exceeds the local housing allowance limit for the area. In addition, we have invested over £7m on improvements to the former crown estate properties since 2011, with further investment planned in the coming years.

To correct a further inaccuracy, our surplus for 2013-14 was £35m (plus £256m, which is not cash but an accounting treatment that reflects the acquisition of Gallions housing association). Every penny we generate is reinvested to provide more affordable homes, and to enable us to continue our investment in quality homes, services and communities.
Stephen Howlett
Chief executive, Peabody

• We need a moratorium on property speculation in the UK while some sense is injected into the housing market. That might even limit the inevitable rise in the cost of housing benefit to the taxpayer. The application of free market principles to the provision of affordable homes to buy or to rent was certain to hurt tenants (Tenants face Christmas evictions after rent deal revoked, 17 November). The damage began on the day the Thatcher government abolished rent controls and allowed the free flow of national and international wealth into a housing market short on supply. Council estates that need refurbishment are now set for demolition for any reason councils short of funds can cook up.
Here in Tottenham the Love Lane estate must go, they say, to improve a deprived area and make way for a smart walkway from a new White Hart Lane station to the new Spurs football arena. This is not slum clearance but pure exploitation of the housing market by national and international property developers and landlords regardless of the need for affordable shelter of the sitting tenants, leaseholders, and those who bought the freehold since they had the right to buy.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• If Ed Miliband wants a cause to rally popular support, let’s hear him on the subject of the New Era estate, with an explanation of how social housing came to be flogged to a predatory US-based landlord, and an assurance that such a thing could never happen under a Labour government.
Jim Trimmer
Kingston upon Thames

• I’ve been saying to my WEA classes since 2010 that Labour’s next election slogan should be the winning “housing, housing, housing”.
David L Alfred

• There is a world of difference between Holyrood’s and Westminster’s approaches to the housing crisis. Last year, the Scottish government reintroduced a sufficient level of capital subsidy to ensure the future of affordable social rented accommodation both by housing associations and councils. “Affordable” means that someone in relatively low-paid employment or on a limited fixed income could be able to pay rent (of about £72-75 a week) and come off housing benefit. Simultaneously, the Scottish government scrapped the right to buy. The Westminster coalition, however, not only scrapped funding support for social housing in England but also extended the right to buy. And the Scottish government has maximised the use of discretionary housing payments to those seriously adversely affected by welfare reforms. These initiatives appear to have received if not cross-party support then at least only muted criticism from the other parties in Holyrood.
Craig Sanderson

06.08 GMT

The mayor of London’s view on Oxford Street’s air pollution has not changed, contrary to your report (Mayor chokes on own tweet over Oxford Street air, 14 November). The claim that it is the most polluted street in the world was erroneous and the mayor does not accept it. Letters between the mayor and Joan Walley MP have been taken completely out of context. He has never disputed the King’s College data, but has always been clear that this data was taken out of context and misrepresented repeatedly by the media. King’s College agrees that its data was misrepresented and reiterated this point to the London assembly’s environment committee just last week.

London has considerably lower levels of pollution than many world cities, as any reasonable analysis of international air quality shows, and Boris Johnson takes the problem extremely seriously. He is driving the most comprehensive and ambitious set of measures in the world to improve air quality, including tightening standards for buses, taxis and large vehicles and a new ultra-low-emission zone for central London, which includes Oxford Street and the surrounding roads from 2020.
Matthew Pencharz
Mayor’s senior adviser for environment and energy

Person looking at job vacancies in a newspaper ‘I was sacked from three jobs (for instance, for nibbling at the rounds of cheese when working in a grocer’s), yet each time was able to walk straight into another job,’ writes Dr Neil Redfern. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Reading Ian Jack’s column (Sorry, would-be sandwich makers: you’ll find it much harder to get a job than I did, 15 November) made me reflect on how much has changed with respect to employment opportunities and social mobility over the past 50-odd years. My CV illustrates this point perfectly. I left school in 1959, aged 15 with no qualifications. Over the next year or so I was sacked from three jobs (for instance, for nibbling at the rounds of cheese in the cellar when working as a shop assistant in a grocer’s), yet each time was able to walk into another job with no intervening periods of unemployment. Eventually, still with no educational qualifications, I was accepted for nurse training. I became a state registered nurse, qualifying in 1966. I wasn’t a very good nurse and sought new opportunities. After an uncertain period in which I, among other things, sold brushes door-to-door, worked as a labourer in a steel mill and suffered periods of unemployment, I had a stroke of good fortune in 1968 when, working as a clerk at a sportswear manufacturers, I was accepted for training as a computer programmer. I worked in information technology until 1989, when I went to Ruskin College (John Prescott’s alma mater) to study history. After 30 years, I had found my role. After 25 years’ studying, teaching and researching history, I am now a semi-retired university lecturer.
Dr Neil Redfern
Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

• While Linda Tirado poignantly documents the pain and humiliation of poverty in the UK (G2, 17 November), she doesn’t go far enough in her analysis of its origins. Of course capitalism needs its winners and losers and of course at the moment the winners feel they can safely condemn the losers. But this is not because Paul Ryan or Iain Duncan Smith are more loathsome than other cheerleaders for the neoliberal bandwagon. There is nothing personal in their attacks but to argue that they mean well is ludicrous. They do what they do because it’s what the system requires. A fear of pauperisation is vital if people are to be persuaded not to reject whatever zero-hours contract or minimum-wage-plus-humiliation job they are offered, and there is no greater cause of fear than not being able to feed yourself or your children. How long before we see the Victorian workhouse making its reappearance?
Tony Owen

Road accident sign in London A road accident sign in London. There are more than a million road deaths worldwide each year, writes the Rev Barry Parker. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

With tragic irony, the road crash that claimed the lives of five teenagers near Doncaster on Saturday night (Report, 17 November) took place on the eve of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, as well as the start of Road Safety Week. Instituted by the charity RoadPeace in 1993 and adopted by the UN in 2005, the Day of Remembrance is held annually on the third Sunday of November, and over 30 church services were held all over the UK last Sunday. At the event I attended in Barnsley, just a few miles from the crash site, we were reminded that the grief and trauma felt by the victims’ families and friends are intensified by the fact that in nearly every case such road deaths are entirely avoidable given good conduct, discipline and law enforcement. Small charities such as RoadPeace and Brake can do little to raise awareness of the need for safe roads, which are needed to protect us all as road users. Death and injury are a national and a worldwide tragedy, and governments and statutory organisations have a major role to play. The worldwide toll of well over 1 million road traffic deaths each year indicates we have many miles to go before we can say that this collective agony has been brought under some sort of control. It will be good to hear what our government is doing or plans to do to meet this urgent requirement.
Rev Barry Parker

Mylene Klass Does Myleene Klass face a choice between downsizing and paying a mansion tax?

While a Guardian guide to the erosion of public services by private corporations would be very useful (Letters, 19 November), there is some research already out there on who owns Britain and who sold it. George Monbiot’s 2000 book Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain answers many of Richard Gravil’s questions. Our own book The Trojan Horse: The Growth of Commercial Sponsorship updates Monbiot’s work, and has a useful appendix which lists the key “providers” and their role in public services.
Deborah Philips Professor of literature and cultural history, University of Brighton
Garry Whannel Professor of media arts, University of Bedfordshire

• Myleene Klass is clearly very exercised by the possibility of a future Labour government giving her rich friends and herself the choice between downsizing or paying a mansion tax (Miliband bruised in Klass war over tax, 19 November). Presumably she is equally exercised by the current Tory-led government’s offer to those at the opposite end of the financial spectrum of the choice between downsizing or paying a bedroom tax.
Professor Jennifer Jenkins

• Hugh Muir should not be surprised by the chatter at the O2 (Notebook, 18 November). The whole atmosphere at the Barclays-sponsored tennis event was crass, from the loud music played at intervals to the dramatised announcements of the players and their obvious embarrassment as each led a small child by the hand while entering the arena. Perhaps next year we can expect cheerleaders.
Ron Houghton

• If that really is a photograph of “Sea and sky in harmony at Alnwick” (Weatherwatch, 19 November), global warming has far exceeded even the wildest forecasts. Last time I checked, Alnwick was five miles inland.
John Mathieson

• The gender-neutral pronoun in widespread use is not the Esperantesque “ze” (Shortcuts, G2, 18 November) but “they”, used as a singular: ugly but effective.
Guy Dugdale


Well now, that’s a surprise! Having bought for a song the UK’s favourite postal system with its major USP and time-honoured universal delivery system, the “new” Royal Mail looks set to be gearing up to shear off this encumbrance so as to streamline itself to battle upstarts such as TNT and Amazon, which have the audacity to be cherry-picking its best routes.

Well, the buyers knew this was already happening perfectly well when they bought the business, and they knew that Royal Mail was not just any old parcel delivery outfit.

It’s time they used their privileged power base and (still) massive customer goodwill to do what they are expected to do, and compete professionally with the relative newcomers.

And let’s hope Ofcom does what it’s supposed to do in preserving the universal delivery system  at all costs.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

The threat to the Royal Mail universal service is yet another demonstration that competition does not improve service.

As a scientist I discard  or modify hypotheses that do not stand up to observation. Why does the Tory party not do so with  its competition myth?

A A Chabot



I would like to add my  voice to those that have expressed concerns regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

This agreement would expose our democratically elected government to non-democratic pressure from unaccountable multinational corporations, which would under its terms have recourse to suing this country over any policy that they felt to be against their interest.

Worse still, any such legal suit would be heard in secret under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation, an organisation that has historically been slavishly supine to the interests of big multinationals.

 Almost certainly, it would make reversal of the creeping steps already taken towards privatising our NHS open to challenge from commercial healthcare operators seeing themselves shut out of lucrative opportunities to further milk the British taxpayer; while re-nationalisation of our railways, utilities, or the Royal Mail – which, like many, I still harbour hope of one day seeing – would be nigh on impossible.

We expect the Tories to welcome the TTIP, because it is the party of big business. What I find seriously disquieting is Labour’s apparent acquiescence in this threat to our independence, which is at least as menacing as any posed by the EU.

When will Labour at long last show some backbone and stand up for the rights of ordinary people over powerful corporations, as it was founded to do?

Richard Trotman

Penistone, South Yorkshire


Bring back the era of belles lettres

The news that budget cuts and safety concerns are leading to a decline in the number of foreign exchanges at secondary school level, combined  with the appallingly low level of pupils’ foreign language competence reported by the National Foundation for Educational Research, is a sad sign of the growing insularity of UK secondary education (“The foreign exchange  trip is becoming passé for UK schoolchildren”,  18 November).

However, there is an alternative to group exchange visits. It is the tried-and-tested foreign  pen-friend arrangement. When I was in my final  year of primary school,  back in the late 1950s,  my class teacher, who had been doing some basic French with us, one day allocated to each pupil  the name and address  of a French school pupil roughly our own age.

Within just over a year, having completed my first year of French at secondary school, I was on my way solo to visit my pen friend, whose family had invited me over for part of the summer holiday period. My pen friend visited my family a couple of years later. He and I still correspond.

Times change, and some parents these days may be nervous about putting 12-year-old offspring on to an airplane to be greeted at the other end by people they hardly know.

Furthermore, letter writing may be tiresome and old hat to many secondary pupils. But the various forms of electronic communication that are now open to them, including Skype, could easily serve as a platform for schools to develop pen friendships with pupils in other countries.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

An extreme view of an ordinary school

Turning to the inside  pages of today’s paper (20 November), which carried the front page headline “Islamic extremism claims top C of E school”, I discovered the headline itself to be extreme. An Islamic Society set up by sixth formers does not constitute a takeover of  the school.

I also noted, but was not surprised by, the statistic that despite being a Church of England school 80 per cent of the pupils are Bengali Muslims, accompanied by the comment of your Education Editor that the school  was thus “reflecting the make-up of the community it serves”.

Hence my lack of surprise, because all Church of England schools seek to serve the local community as they are parish-based, not faith-based. The Church of England doesn’t have so-called faith schools. Other Christian denominations and other major faiths do have faith schools, but not the Church of England.

The only qualification required to benefit from the ministry of the Church of England, be that baptism, marriage, burial, pastoral care or, as in this instance, education, is that you live in the parish. Every citizen in this country is a parishioner and can call upon the services of the local parish church, by right. That is one of the huge benefits of the Church of England being the Established Church  of the land.

Canon Tony Chesterman

Lesbury, Northumberland 

No credit for hotels which take liberties

The case of the “hovel allegation surcharge”, in which a Blackpool hotelier attempted to debit an extra £100 from a guest who posted an unfavourable review, not only raises questions of just how critical one can be online – it also raises serious questions over credit card “authorisation”.

When I give an online retailer, an airline or a hotel the “authorisation” to make a deduction, it is for an agreed amount in return for a service. I assume a contract (real or implied) is created for that specific transaction and the agreed amount. I do not imagine I am giving a blank cheque to the retailer to plunder that account.

Recently a hotel in London pre-authorised my credit card for £100 above the cost of the room for “services I might use”. I had to agree, if I was to continue my stay, even though I had no intention of using “additional services”.

The hoteliers in Blackpool may be aggrieved by the tone of the review, but something must be done to protect consumers against retailers who use cards in this way.

Matthew Hisbent


If you don’t need fuel subsidy, pass it on

Trevor Pateman (letter,  19 November) is obviously in the fortunate position of not actually needing the £200 winter fuel payment, but according to AgeUK “on average, one older person will die every seven minutes from a cold-related illness this winter”, so for many pensioners the payment  is a life-saver.

The money is sent out just before Christmas as presumably a goodwill gesture and doesn’t have  to be used straight away  to pay for “winter fuel”.

Mr Pateman could  donate his payment to AgeUK, giving him a  warm glow by helping someone in real need.

Mary Gough

Watford, Hertfordshire


A donnish character, but no professor

Your report on a Cambridge don’s bequest of nearly £1m to the Liberal Democrats (14 November) refers to him several times as “Professor Watson”. George Watson was never a professor. He was a college and faculty lecturer in English, for 50 years a resident fellow of St John’s. He died not “in August”, as your report had it, but in August 2013.

A notable donnish character (who kindly invited me to dinner  once, when I had a literary history of Cambridge published), cultured, polymathic and of robust views, he received, so far as I can discover, surprisingly few, if any, obituaries in the national press.

Graham Chainey


Paddington’s too much? Oh no it’s not!

The British Board of Film Classification has awarded the Paddington Bear film a PG certificate. Have the BBFC’s members ever been to pantomime? Mild threat? What about the wicked queen, step-mother or ugly sisters? A man dressed as a woman? The Dame. A woman dressed as a man? Principal boy. Innuendo? “Ooer, missus, what a big one!” (beanstalk, pumpkin, cucumber). I despair.

Sue Thomas

Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


Sir, The appalling and brutal murders carried out in a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers this week (“Deaths push Jerusalem to brink of holy war”, Nov 19) are to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The desecration of the sacred, taking life in a house of prayer, is the absolute antithesis of faith and of what we stand for. This attack on people at prayer is yet another example from across the globe of violence in the name of religion, which undermines religious freedom. We appeal to the believers of all traditions to denounce such attacks wherever in our world they take place and to call for an end to religiously motivated violence.

The Most Rev Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
Ephraim Mirvis Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

Sir, There is, rightly, outrage at the synagogue massacre; there should also be outrage at Benjamin Netanyahu’s response, which will ensure the cycles of “getting even” go on. It seems we are lacking a statesman capable not only of halting this spiral of violence but even understanding it.

Dominic Kirkham

Sir, Foreign secretary Philip Hammond calls for peace between the Palestinians and the Jews. Surely he should be calling for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, whether the Israelis be Jewish, Druze, Christian, Bahá’í or indeed Muslim. The tragedy is that a separate state called Palestine would not have such a variety of believers.

Tamara Selig
Stanmore, Middx

Sir, I have found that when someone shouts at me, shouting back rarely makes things better. My daughter is in Israel at present. I would feel more confident about her safety if the Israeli government took a more measured approach to the inexcusable terrorist murders.

James Goldman
London NW4

Sir, Thousands of Israelis, both Jews and Muslims, including the president and heads of both religions, attended the funeral of Zidan Saif, the Druze policeman killed in the attack. In this deeply conflicted part of the Middle East where the positions of the Arab Muslim and Israeli Jewish parties appear intractable, the Druze, a Muslim community living in Israel, should be seen as a model of cooperation on which to build.

Dr R Rosenfelder
London NW6

Sir, Your correspondent Catherine Philp puts the cart before the horse (“Jerusalem braced for holy war”, Nov 20). The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours did not begin as “territorial and political,” now “morphing into religious war.” Its origins were always fundamentally religious in nature — the notion of Jewish self-determination in any part of the “Dar el-Islam” [The House of Islam] being a challenge to Islamic jurisprudence.
Israel’s chief rabbinate may have forbidden Jews from entering the Temple Mount, but other rabbis have ruled differently. In any case, it is for each individual Jew to make up his or her mind on this issue. If Christians and Moslems can pray at this site, why not Jews?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman
University of Buckingham

Sir, It is 20 years since Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslims and wounded 125 others as the prayed in the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron. His house was not demolished and though some of his supporters in the extreme right-wing Meir Kahane group were briefly held, it was the Palestinians of Hebron who were punished for this atrocity: their movements became ever more restricted, and half their mosque was converted into a synagogue.
As we rush to condemn those who have applauded the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, let us remember that Goldstein’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for Israeli settlers — more than 10,000 visited it before it was demolished by the Israeli government.

Brigid Waddams
Batcombe, Somerset

Sir, I see from your report that spending on lollipop ladies has been cut by more than 40 per cent. The last time I looked I was still a man.

Peter Richardson
Sale, Cheshire

Sir, I write with regard to your report on migration (Nov 19). First, the subject is understated by some media which refer simply to net migration, and second, there is unbalanced criticism of the EU by the failure to make a distinction between immigration from EU and non-EU countries.

For the year ending March 2014 there were 560,000 immigrants of whom almost half were from non-EU countries. The government can do nothing about EU immigrants while we remain within the EU. It does, however, have responsibility for non-EU immigration and it seems to have lost control of this. In the same year, 316,000 people left the UK, making it likely that the UK is less British by almost one million people. No wonder there is growing public concern.
Lord Kilclooney
House of Lords

Sir, The scale and consequences of the failures of Rotherham Council cannot be overstated (“Councils leaving children exposed to sex grooming”, Nov 19), but Ofsted’s contribution should not be ignored either. Since 2005, Ofsted produced 11 reports on safeguarding in Rotherham. In only one report, in 2009, were serious concerns raised and the following year these were said to have been addressed.

An unannounced inspection in 2012 of the council’s arrangements for the protection of children concluded that “the overall effectiveness of local authority arrangements . . . is adequate. Significant improvements have been made since 2009 [...] These improvements have been driven by clear and resilient leadership and informed by a sound and realistic understanding of the needs of the local community”.

The sexual exploitation uncovered in Rotherham took place between 1997 and 2013. Who will shine a light on Ofsted?
John Gaskin
Bainton, E Yorks

Sir, I am baffled by the report that Sir Bruce Keogh will require surgeons’ death rates to be published (News, Nov 17). He is a serious surgeon with a track record of good sense. Why is something so extraordinary going out under his name?

Anyone who has worked in the NHS knows that avoidable postoperative complications are more related to nursing care than anything else, and that surgeons have little control over that.

Clearly a correct diagnosis has to be made, and the correct operation offered and performed by the surgeon. Once the last stitch is in, it’s over to nurses and physios to ensure success. Death rates will reflect the success of the team working together, not the skill of the surgeon.
Alastair Lack

Coombe Bissett, Wilts


With life expectancy on the rise, the country’s social care system is in crisis

Close up of an elderly lady's hands, affected by rheumatoid arthritis, holding a cup

The number of people over 85 in Britain is expected to double by 2030 Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 20 Nov 2014


SIR – The ballooning figures for life expectancy at birth and at age 65 in England and Wales highlight the fact that the care of Britain’s ageing population needs to be addressed urgently.

The social care system is in crisis, with the number of over-85s expected to double by 2030. It will be the scandal of our generation if we do not act to meet the needs of our ageing population – after all, the younger people of today are simply the older people of tomorrow.

The Grey Pride campaign has called for the introduction of a minister for older people in Cabinet. This would provide someone who can take responsibility for joining up services that affect old people – health, social care, housing, transport.

We call on the three major parties to commit themselves to such an appointment in their election manifestos.

Jane Ashcroft
Chief Executive, Anchor
Janet Davies
Executive Director for Nursing & Service Delivery, The Royal College of Nursing
Professor Martin Green
Chief Executive, Care England
Malcolm Booth
CEO, National Federation of Occupational Pensioners
Nick Bunting
Secretary General, Royal Air Forces Association
Simon Bottery
Director of Policy and External Relations, Independent Age
Denise Keating
Chief Executive, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion
Nigel Wilson
CEO, Legal & General
Michael Voges
Executive Director of Associated Retirement Community Operators
Bob Green
CEO, Stonewall Housing
David Orr
Chief Executive, National Housing Federation
Stephen Burke
Director, United for All Ages and Good Care Guide
Des Kelly
Executive Director, National Care Forum
Jeff Skipp
CEO, Deafblind UK
Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus
Colin Nee
Chief Executive, British Geriatrics Society
Paul Burstow MP
Liz Kendall MP
Dave Anderson MP
Nic Dakin MP
Jason McCartney MP
Dame Joan Ruddock MP
Tracey Crouch MP
Dame Angela Watkinson MP
Nick De Bois MP
Kevin Barron MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Alison Seabeck MP

Hilda Hayo
CEO, Dementia UK

The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East; equality between the sexes; how to save the eurozone; and an English lesson in 1960s chic

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man puts his head in his hands, inside a synagogue that was attacked by two Palestinians in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years.

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man puts his head in his hands, inside a synagogue that was attacked by two Palestinians in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 20 Nov 2014


SIR – On the day when four Jewish worshippers were slaughtered at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue, the Church of England General Synod gathered to debate religious freedom and the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East.

A discussion paper had been circulated in advance, and we had invited a Muslim speaker to address us, in a historic step forward in inter-faith dialogue. Both the paper and the panel discussion upon it were measured, thoughtful and respectful.

The paper described religious freedom as the “canary in the mine”, which served as the measure of all other human rights.

The debate went well, except for one remarkable oversight: on that of all days, not a mention was made of our threatened Jewish brothers and sisters in the region.

I had tabled a question: “Is the canary in the mine Jewish?” but was not called.

Martin Sewell
General Synod Member, Rochester
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – David Blair writes that, in the present perilous situation in Jerusalem, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will “probably be a stabilising force”.

Not so. Mr Abbas regularly incites violence among the people of Judea and Samaria as well as those Arabs currently living in Israel.

To the West, he speaks moderation, but to his Muslim audience, Mr Abbas calls for more surprise attacks until Israel is vanquished. If anyone wishes to know the truth about Mr Abbas, they need only look at the English translations of Arab newspapers, television broadcasts and cartoons online.

Dr Elizabeth Stewart
Weston, Lincolnshire

SIR – John Kerry, the US secretary of state, blamed the Jerusalem synagogue attack on “incitement” by Palestinian leaders.

Raymond Solomon

SIR – I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land recently, spending six nights in a Bethlehem hotel and commuting to the various Christian sites around Jerusalem and the West Bank before completing the trip in Tiberias. The hostility between the Israelis and the Palestinians was even more palpable this year than on my last trip two years ago, which is hardly surprising given what went on in Gaza this summer.

The thing that depressed me most of all was comparing notes with a pilgrim from Suffolk, who told me his group wouldn’t visit Bethlehem because their guide had told them that “it’s full of Muslims and they’re dangerous”. When asked, he confirmed that the guide was Israeli. I regard this as yet another example of Israel’s determination to starve the Palestinians into submission. I wish I knew the name of the tour company so I could expose its bigotry publicly.

Gabriel Herbert
London W12

Keeping men

SIR – Jacky Maggs argues that we need to stop vilifying women for the choices that they make regarding child care and work – that women need to be given a choice (Letters, November 18). I fully support her aims, but what about a man’s right to choose?

My son is destined to be a wage slave; my daughter, because she is female, will have a choice. We will only have equal numbers of women and men as FTSE 100 CEOs or government ministers when we have the same number of “kept” men as “kept” women.

Men are mainly judged by their careers, while women are judged on a broad range of issues, not all of them positive. Let’s start by judging women and men on the same basis; we will only achieve equality for women when we also have equality for men.

Kevin Ruff
Banbury, Oxfordshire

SIR – Of course no one commented on the way Karl Stefanovic, the Australian television presenter, was dressed. He was wearing his school uniform of dark suit, white shirt and dark tie. If he dared to wear different, brightly coloured clothes or appear without his tie, the wrath of the viewers would have descended on his head.

If the female presenters dressed conventionally and consistently wore a dark skirt suit and a smart blouse, they would attract as little comment as he did. Men in the public gaze only escape sartorial criticism if they conform to the very restricted view of “correct” male dress. There certainly is a gender divide in dress codes, but I would suggest that it is the men who are the victims.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

SIR – Cathy Newman envies her male colleagues who do not need to spend hours rifling through the wardrobe in search of suitable TV attire”. So why does she spend hours? Let her wear a smart suit with a white blouse and her killer heels. Problem solved.

Marjorie Ainley
Bath, Somerset

Heaven’s bacon

SIR – In his recent illuminating article on saffron, Paul Levy refers to “Portuguese saffron desserts… formerly confected exclusively by nuns, [which are] made extravagantly yellow by the incorporation of an unimaginably large number of egg yolks.”

Such desserts were, indeed, originally made in convents and monasteries, where large quantities of egg whites were used for the starching and pressing of the nuns’ and monks’ habits. The leftover egg yolks were then put to good use, resulting in a constellation of celestial desserts, ultra-sweet and sticky, which are found throughout the country to this day. Many of them carry names associated with monastic life, such as “heaven’s bacon”, “nun’s belly” and “angel’s chests”.

Richard Symington
London SW17

Rating bears and birds

SIR – The rating afforded Paddington by the British Board of Film Classification may help the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds when considering the fate of four-and-twenty blackbirds.

Robert Vincent
Wildhern, Hampshire

Litter pickings

SIR – Americans are not necessarily tidier than Britons (Letters, November 19).

Some states, Georgia in particular, employ prisoners to pick up litter from the roadside, sometimes under the supervision of an armed policeman.

Making prisoners useful would benefit society here in Britain.

M D Sparks
Shalford, Essex

35 sleeps till Christmas

SIR – Irena Milloy (Letters, November 17) is wrong in thinking Christmas bedding a new phenomenon.

My reindeer and snowflake patterned bedding is now over a decade old. It is used for no more than 28 days a year, after which it is banished to the cupboard. I expect it to outlast us all.

Dr Fiona Ramsay

SIR – My recollection of Christmas arriving early goes back to the Forties when our milkman was also the supplier of our Christmas chicken. To guarantee a chicken on our table on Christmas Day it had to be ordered by July.

Edmund Redfern
Blackburn, Lancashire

It’s all in the hours: how to save the eurozone

Olde Worlde business: Ernst Graner’s early 20th-century portrait of a Viennese grocer’s ( )

SIR – A recent weekend visit to Vienna on All Saint’s Day brought home to me very clearly why eurozone economies are failing to grow.

It was a national holiday, so I would guess that, during that weekend, the population of the city centre was swollen by perhaps 40-50 per cent: yet, barring an odd coffee shop and chocolatier, the entire city remained closed. Closer inspection of the opening hours of various retail premises revealed that many still close at half past five or six each evening, and have no late-night openings.

With this kind of approach to work it is small wonder that business is bad.

Jan de Walden
London SE1

How the English taught the French to be chic

SIR – My French exchange student lived in the same outfit for 10 days because it was the one rig-out she felt was fashionable. This was 1967 and she wore black needlecord jeans, a rose wool ribbed mini jumper and short leather ankle boots, even when we spent the sunny afternoons at the outdoor lido in Surbiton.

Later I took her to Carnaby Street and she spent all her holiday money on a citrus psychedelic dress – it was Swinging London after all, while the French were still rocking to Johnny Hallyday.

When I got to France we spent our afternoons in an attic “club”, where all the teenagers smoked Kent cigarettes and played moody Michel Polnareff records.

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – I was saddened to see that safety rules are to preclude pupils’ foreign exchange visits.

Fifty years ago, aged 15, I travelled alone by train from Birmingham to Landshut to meet up with my German pen friend.

I learnt much from that visit, apart from the ability to better express myself in a foreign language. Most importantly I learnt that not all people were as materially fortunate as me. After my lengthy journey I asked to take a bath – never expecting that this would entail buckets of water being brought to the boil and poured into a tin bath.

It was a salutary lesson, and my pen friend and I remain in contact to this day.

Penelope Cornish
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – A U-turn, a climbdown, a volte-face, a rowback, a 180, a flip-flop, a back-track, a watered-down version. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – U-bend or U-turn? – Yours, etc,


Beaumont, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Those surviving on a pittance will be charged the same amount for water as those with too much to count. The distribution of money upwards continues unabated. Governance in Ireland, under this Coalition, is now utterly inglorious. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – What is the logic behind charging an adult living alone €60 for water, while a cohabiting couple must pay €80 each? – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The details of the revised water charges regime outlined in the Dáil yesterday are identical in almost every respect to the information leaked to the media in recent weeks.

As the Government had repeatedly assured us that the Cabinet exclusively was working on this package, it must be assumed that these leaks came from Cabinet members.

This is, of course, very worrying indeed and must be of grave concern to the Taoiseach, who I am sure will order an immediate inquiry – to be conducted by a retired High Court judge, of course. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Watching the “debate” in the Dáil on the changes to water charges, I was struck by the bad manners of our so-called leaders. While the Minister was outlining the changes, Opposition TDs continually heckled him, and when the Opposition spokesman stood up to reply, most of the Government front bench walked out. How are we to have any respect for these people whose manners are worse than a bunch of rowdy schoolchildren? – Yours, etc,



A chara, – Minister for the Environement Kelly had already begun the predictable buck-passing. Asked if non-payers would be brought to court, he responded that this was a matter for Irish Water! I’m sure the same response will be forthcoming when charges are increased in due course. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Anyone familiar with the unerring ability of Goverment TDs to issue retractions, contradictions and pure spin will probably wait another few weeks to see what else it is going to let fly out of their mouths, before deciding one way or the other.

Once people are signed up, 2019 will roll around quickly enough, the plebisicite will never happen and charges will quickly skyrocket before the whole thing is sold off to some private investor. It will then be too late for the Irish people to do anything about it.

Massive public protests get results and the anti-water charges campaign should keep up the pressure until at least a plebisicite is held and the future of Irish Water as a public utility is secured. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – My stance in favour of water charges all along has been because of the conservation argument. Now that we know the details of the water charges payments, it seems the conservation argument has gone out the window. It seems that what my anti-water charges friends were telling me in heated debates was correct, it was just a tax under another name.

What’s the point in conserving water if there is a cap in place? It doesn’t matter how much water you use. We are now being told that the meters will help reduce bills if you use a small amount of water. In reality the reduction will be minuscule and will not be worth the effort. Granted the meters may find a few leaks but if you are effectively not being penalised for them, what’s the point in getting them fixed? – Yours, etc,


Salthill, Galway.

Sir, – The big problem is those who won’t pay and those who can’t pay. What is to be done about that? The Government’s answer is political, ambiguous and mealy-mouthed. People won’t be chased for the charge until a year and a month from the start date. The financial penalties seem rather low and will only count, apparently, when the residence is being sold. There is no mention of jail terms and confiscation of income or property. PPSs are not to be asked for and those which have been given are to dealt with by a protocol between Irish Water and the data commissioner.

The honest will wind up paying for the quango known as Irish Water. Those who don’t pay are going to get a lot more time with their money than the honest ones. Eventually, a detailed scheme will have to be designed for those who really can’t pay. This means income assessment, something Revenue and the Department of Social Protection seem reluctant to do. In the meantime, Irish Water will be racking up the costs, which will have to be paid in the future, almost certainly from government income or loans. So expect a big jump in water charges after 2019. – Yours, etc,


Coolock, Dublin 17.

A chara, – One water meter for sale. Like new. Any reasonable offer accepted. – Is mise,


Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – If we give it a few more months, the Government will be paying us to use water. – Is mise,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – I was interested to read Stephen O’Byrnes’s piece “‘Peaceful protest’ over Irish Water is truly a charade” (Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). Given his former senior role in the now defunct Progressive Democrats, I particularly welcome his call “that the genesis of this ongoing campaign of unlawful behaviour is spelled out by Government, supported by all our politicians”.

Perhaps you would allow similar space and prominence to be given to an exploration of how certain policies, promoted by the PDs and implemented by governments of which that party was a member, contributed to the economic collapse of this country, with catastrophic results for so many, particularly the poor, excluded and marginalised? Might we start with the lack of regulation of the financial services sector, and its implementation of income tax cuts at a time of unprecedented economic growth, and its impact on revenue when the housing and property market collapsed? The list is long; however, I hope the above two items might be a useful start. – Yours, etc,


Baldoyle, Dublin 13.

Sir, – What a relief to read such a well-structured article from Stephen O’Byrnes. I agree wholeheartedly and it makes such a change from all the negative media comment we have been subjected to. The complete Irish Water situation has been handled so very badly and it is difficult to believe that the politicians in Government can ever recover from this debacle. Unfortunately, anarchy is rearing its head and I hope the authorities are ready. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – I wish to protest about the protests. Please can we have some new news! – Yours, etc,


Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Stephen O’Byrnes writes, “It is also time that some broadcasters moved beyond their ping-pong presentation of these events, and stopped according a moral and political equivalence to both sides in this national confrontation”. Is he suggesting that The Irish Times should be condemned for publishing his article without warning readers that he is a neo-liberal long associated with the redundant Progressive Democrats? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Do you have to afford lobbyists such as Stephen O’ Byrne the opportunity to serve up such drivel in your opinion columns? – Yours, etc,


Inchicore, Dublin 8.

Sir, –The opinion piece condemning the “anarchy” of the water protesters by Stephen O’Byrnes describes him as a communications and political consultant. Many people may not be aware that the same Mr O’Byrne and his colleagues in the late and unlamented Progressive Democrats bear a huge responsibility for the economic policies that led to the bankruptcy of this State. The rejection by the people of further impositions to pay for the result of such policies is entirely predictable and justified, while the actions of a few are not. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I would urge the protesters to heed one of their own slogans, “Enough is enough”. You have made your point; now let it rest, please. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – In his article on political stability and governability in Ireland (“Losing its grip: why the Irish political system can no longer guarantee stability”, Opinion & Analysis, November 11th), Fintan O’Toole suggests that mass emigration was the price paid for the prioritisation of political stability in post-independence Ireland.

I would argue that political stability was a consequence rather than a cause of mass emigration (which was long-established before the achievement of independence in 1922).

In 1992 the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) published a report by the Norwegian social scientist, Lars Mjøset, which sought to explain why Ireland’s level of economic development lagged behind that achieved by other small west European economies (Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland). Mjoset’s main conclusion was that the latter countries, unlike Ireland, had developed strong export-oriented industrial sectors that were primarily owned by indigenous firms and around which were built robust national systems of innovation which drove processes of continuous renewal and expansion.

Ireland, Mjøset argued, did not possess a comparable national system of innovation, and a key reason for this was the impact of continued mass emigration since the mid-19th century. The selective nature of emigration meant those moving abroad were, for the most part, young, energetic, ambitious, and innovative. In essence, those with get-up-and-go got up and went. This was the classic safety valve that systematically removed those who would otherwise have been sources of social disruption and change.

As a result, Ireland was left in the unchallenged control of highly conservative, agrarian-based, social and economic elements profoundly inimical to change. Rather than challenge these entrenched interests, and faced with very limited employment prospects, potential dissidents who might otherwise have sparked innovation and change simply emigrated. One consequence was the phenomenon of political stagnation (as much as stability) described by Mr O’Toole.

It remains to be seen to what extent the current wave of social unrest, in conjunction with the implosion of the Catholic Church, the marginalisation of agriculture and widespread alienation from the established political parties signals a secular transition to a new era of political instability. – Is mise,



Department of Geography,

Maynooth University.

Sir, – The recent death of a two-year-old girl in a road incident in Waterford was tragic (“Fire service criticises ‘ghoulish’ crash photos”, Front Page, November 20th). I cannot begin to imagine the grief that her family is going through. It is deplorable that members of the public that happened upon the scene began capturing videos and photo images of the incident with their phones. Why anyone would stoop to this morbid behaviour is beyond my comprehension. Yet it has has become so widespread that Waterford Fire Services has appealed to the public to let it get on with its work and to show respect and dignity to those involved in accidents. Curiosity is normal; capturing images of dying, injured and distraught victims is not. – Yours, etc,


Dunleer, Co Louth.

Sir, – I commend Kathy Sheridan for her clear-headed analysis of the inherently harmful nature of prostitution (“Telling the grim truth about prostitution”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). As an organisation that has supported over 2,500 women whose lives have been blighted by their involvement in the sex trade, we can confirm that they did not experience prostitution as “a job like any other”, but rather an existence characterised overwhelmingly by objectification, exploitation and violence meted out by those who bought them and those who profited from their sale.

As we move towards long-awaited legal reform on this issue in Ireland, Ms Sheridan is right to suggest it is time to face the truth of what prostitution really involves and stop pandering to the view of it as a harmless or even glamorous “profession”. This is a view peddled by a privileged minority and only serves to line the pockets of pimps and traffickers, and prop up the belief that men have the right to buy women and girls – usually the most marginalised and vulnerable women and girls. If we are truly interested in achieving gender equality in Ireland then tackling the oppression of prostitution has to be an absolute priority. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,


All Hallows College,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Last Friday I travelled to the “3 Theatre” (formerly the 02) in Dublin to attend the Andrea Bocelli concert. The concert was late starting (which is apparently the norm in Ireland now), latecomers were admitted in their droves without even an apology up to the interval, and the prohibition of recording and filming was not enforced. Am I the only person who gets upset when there is constant chatter from behind in the middle of an aria or orchestral piece? Am I expecting too much not to have to sit next to or behind someone constantly using their iPad or iPhone to take numerous photographs from every angle during every song? Am I asking too much of the promoters of these concerts to enforce their own rules and to leave the latecomers outside? There were so many photographs being taken last Friday the scene was reminsicent of the intermittent flashing of Christmas tree lights. Yet nothing was said other than a general announcement at the beginning of the evening, when many of the latecomers were not even present.

What was worse, people were emailing photographs to their friends and then answering the emails, after having an audible discussion, of course. What is it about Irish society that we can no longer arrive on time, sit, listen and enjoy? Intervals were made for chatting.

The ticket (excluding charges) cost €166 and was paid for in April. This was a most expensive trip; I won’t be spending my hard-earned cash in that theatre again. We as a civilised society lost a lot in the Celtic Tiger, and not all of it money.

Thank heavens for the Gate and the National Concert Hall, where standards are still maintained. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Alison Hackett (November 18th) argues that if teachers wish to retain professional status as educators they should assess their students’ work. She cites other professions such as the law and architecture. Would she agree to a system whereby a lawyer would defend a client and then act as judge and jury? Or where an architect would both submit a planning application and then decide whether or not to give permission for construction? Teachers are not only there to assess; they are advocates, supporting students throughout their time at secondary school – encouraging, cajoling, inspiring. The student-teacher relationship is a delicate one that may be ruined by forcing teachers to become the judges of their students. – Yours, etc,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole should realise that even little ideas can have big consequences (“What’s the big idea? It’s time for the State to consider a real democracy”, Opinion & Analysis, November 18th). Why not include the banning of smoking in pubs and the charging for plastic bags as big ideas? From little saplings do great oaks grow. – Yours, etc,


Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

So all is settled. We have “certainty, simplicity and affordability”. The charging rates have been lowered and set in stone for four years. Irish Water will only be privatised if the people agree in a plebiscite. The Government backbenchers, we hear, are quietly satisfied that the worst is over and that the Government has regained the initiative. Case closed. Panic over.

But is it? The big problem is those who won’t pay and those who can’t pay. What is to be done about it? The Government’s answer is political – ambiguous and mealy-mouthed. People won’t be chased for the charge until a year and a month from the start date. The financial penalties seem rather low and will only count, apparently, when the residence is being sold. There is no mention of jail terms and confiscation of income or property. PPSs are not to be asked for and those which have been given are to be dealt with by protocol between Irish Water and the Data Commissioner.

As usual the Government has chickened out. The honest will wind up paying for the quango known as Irish Water. Those who don’t pay are going to get a lot more time with their money than the honest ones. Eventually, a detailed scheme will have to be designed for those who really can’t pay. This means income assessment – something Revenue and Social Welfare seem reluctant to do.

In the meantime, Irish Water will be racking up costs which will have to be paid in the future – almost certainly from Government income or loans.

So expect a big jump in water charges post-2019. Hopefully, the country won’t be washed up by then. This Government are unlikely to be in power then (not to worry – the pensions are terrific).

Maybe Sinn Fein will be power. It should be interesting to see their policy on Irish Water. There’s one positive note about Sinn Fein in government – enforcement of government policy shouldn’t be a problem.

Liam Cooke

Coolock, Dublin 17

Water charges

When George Bush Senior was president of the US he said that future wars would be about water. Once again, Ireland is to the fore as we set out to do the right thing by starting our own watered-down version in the run-up to the 2016 celebrations.

This is what was really said outside the GPO that day in 1916 (as it all becomes clearer now that we see history repeat itself).

“In the name of Water and the dead generations, etc, etc.” We can now confidently replace Padraig Pearse’s “blood sacrifice” with “water retention”, because he obviously was saying this.

You can take our freedom, but you’ll never take our rivers, which always run free. Oh, they’ve taken them as well?

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

It’s not just any panto… it’s the Irish Water panto.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont D9

Almost everyone knows that when you are in a hole you stop digging. However, after half a million water holes, the Government are still at it.

Seamus McLoughlin

Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim

‘Disgraceful’ scenes in Ireland

Dear God! Am I supposed to be concerned that Joan Burton has been hit by a balloon? Enda Kenny says this is “disgraceful”. Really?

Taoiseach, for your education, this is what “disgraceful” looks like:

It’s the two men I know in their 40s in our capital who killed themselves because their businesses failed in the crash, which was caused by Irish politicians.

It’s doing absolutely nothing, when you’re the leader of the opposition, to hold an inept government to account – even though that’s your absolute duty in a democracy.

It’s failing to pressurise government during the boom years to invest in hospitals, schools and 100-year-old leaky water pipes.

It’s throwing away €80m of our money to set up Irish Water.

It’s the death of my father this year from complications having developed a lung clot after lying on a hospital trolley. (He was in A&E simply to get three stitches in his head after a fall and wanted to go home during all of the first 24 hours. Then he deteriorated, had to go to a ward and then cost the taxpayer a bomb in useless rehabilitation costs for three months, before he eventually died in a room with eight other patients watching him). My father had paid twice over for his medical care (both public and private).

This is a definition of “disgraceful”.

Dr Maeve White

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

Don’t let Benjy bull leave alone

I note in your pages the exploits of Benjy the Co Mayo gay bull (November 18).

So far, £9,000 (€11,242) has already been pledged to rehome the lucky bull.

A young adult Charlois would weigh about 800kg, at current (well-publicised) low pricing levels (€3.67/kg) this would amount to under €3,000. Considering the amount raised, perhaps there would be enough left over for him to bring a friend?

Richard E Joyce

Monkstown, Co Dublin

Backing continuous assessment

The second-level teacher unions are committed to resisting the compromised proposals for junior-cycle reforms as outlined by the Minister for Education and Skills. Regrettably, they have announced two days of strike.

In a joint statement the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland continue to raise concerns about the potential impact of 40pc school-based continuous assessment on “educational standards”. They also strongly claim to be taking a stand on behalf of their students and what is best for them.

However, both the National Parents Council Post-Primary (NPCpp) and the Irish Second-level Students’ Union (ISSU) have come out in support of the minister’s proposed reforms, including a level of school-based assessment.

In their own joint statement both parent and student bodies have respectfully asked teachers to return to talks, stating that the minister’s proposed package of reforms is “good for students, good for parents and good for education”.

Therefore, these proposed strikes do not have the support of many parents and students. More importantly, many of the concerns raised by the unions are not supported by research.

Both teachers and union representatives are well aware that research has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that constructive and formative feedback is essential for promoting learning.

Students need to know what they are doing well, where they are required to improve and how they can improve.

A summative exam at the end of a three-year cycle does not give teachers the opportunity to provide such feedback. On the other hand, the proposed 40pc school-based continuous assessment over years two and three provides teachers with the opportunity to assess their students and help them identify areas where they can learn and develop their skills, as well as hopefully improving students’ overall grade outcome.

Teachers are best placed to provide students with individualised formative feedback that can help them reach their full potential.

Dr Raymond Lynch

Department of Education

University of Limerick

Irish Independent


November 20, 2014

20 November 2014 Recovery

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and Fluff seems to be quietly recovering.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Alan Smith – obituary

Alan Smith was a long-serving Tory stalwart who organised the ill-fated 1984 Conservative Party Conference in Brighton

Alan Smith


5:53PM GMT 19 Nov 2014


Alan Smith, who has died aged 93, was for nine years secretary of the Conservative National Union, the grassroots wing of the Party; his most public responsibility was organising party conferences – his last being the bomb-ravaged Brighton conference of 1984.

Smith died two days after the 30th anniversary of the bombing, several Tory activists having called to thank him again for the help he gave them in its wake.

The device on the sixth floor of the Grand Hotel exploded at 2.54 am on October 12, the final day of the conference. Collapsing the front of the building, it left five dead and many more injured; Margaret Thatcher had a narrow escape.

From their first-floor room Smith and his wife made for the fire exit with dozens of other senior Tories. As a former Army officer he could not help thinking that “had there been an IRA gunman following up the explosion, he would have had a field day”.

The conference was due to resume in six hours, but there was no talk of cancellation, Smith agreeing with Mrs Thatcher that it must be business as usual.

He was allowed back into the building to retrieve the conference files, plus his watch and ring left on the dressing table. Guests’ other belongings were retrieved several days later .

The party treasurer Sir Alistair McAlpine, Smith noted, “called in some business favours and got M&S opened for fresh clothing and hot drinks. Conference opened on time, and continued amid whispered enquiries about the Tebbits and John Wakeham.” Norman Tebbit, trapped beneath the rubble, was seriously injured and his wife Margaret left paralysed; Wakeham sustained serious injuries, but his wife was among the dead.

“If the applause was a little more fervent and prolonged than usual,” Smith wrote, “it was a reflection of the pride representatives felt in their party, which could shrug off this disaster and get on with the job.”

He had always planned to retire at the end of 1984, “but to finish my political career in such sadness over the death and injury of so many people I had worked with was a traumatic ending I had never expected.”

John Alan Smith was born in Cambridge on February 16 1921. From Cambridgeshire High School for Boys he joined the Cambridgeshire Regiment TA as war broke out. Becoming a colour sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters, he was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1942, then fought with 1st Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers in North Africa and Sicily. He later became a staff captain in GHQ 2nd Echelon and GSO 2 Intelligence Organisation, AFHQ Italy.

Demobilised as a major in 1946, he was appointed Conservative agent for South-West Norfolk , and later for Huntingdon. In 1968 he moved to London as deputy Central Office agent for the South East.

In 1975 Smith was appointed secretary of the National Union. His tasks included organising the party’s October conference, which then alternated between Brighton and Blackpool – though even before the bombing Smith had arranged for the 1986 event to be held in Bournemouth.

Organising the conference was a fine art. “Fitting ministers, party officers, executive committee members and staff into the 250 bedrooms we reserved was a continual problem for me,” Smith recalled. On the conference agenda, Smith was caught between the National Union, who wanted motions with bite, and the leadership which was set on blandness. Observing one of Smith’s conferences, a Soviet diplomat remarked: “This is just how we do things in the Kremlin. We don’t organise a conference so the delegates can tell us what to do.”

Under Smith’s auspices the party started charging constituency representatives to attend the conference, introduced commercial displays as a money-raiser, and deployed a mechanically operated speaker’s rostrum christened the “Maggie rose”. During these years the conference “fringe” expanded rapidly.

He was appointed OBE in 1984.

Alan Smith married Pamela Hoskin in 1945; she died earlier this year. Their son and two daughters survive him.

Alan Smith, born February 16 1921, died October 13 2014


derek robinson Derek Robinson was an external adviser to South Africa’s presidential labour market commission. Photograph: Magdalen College, Oxford

Derek Robinson was proud of having been the first economic adviser to an employment minister, Barbara Castle, whom he idolised. At the dinner to mark Derek’s retirement from Magdalen College, Oxford, a seat was left vacant next to him. As the meal started, in walked the frail lady; the college had arranged for her to be chauffeured there.

In the 1990s, Derek was an external adviser to South Africa’s presidential labour market commission, of which I was the research director. In our report to the cabinet and then to Nelson Mandela, we advised that unless there was a strong redistributive strategy from the outset, growth would be sluggish, inequality would grow and labour absorption would be negligible. On the day we presented our findings, the minister of finance, guided by the IMF and the World Bank, proposed structural or supply-side initiatives, and our recommendations were not taken up. Inequality and mass unemployment grew, prompting more social tensions and violence. Derek shared our anger.

George Healy writes: Before the 1992 general election, Derek Robinson set up a meeting involving John Smith, the Labour leader, and Tony Blair, the shadow employment minister. A serious disagreement between Blair and Derek about the role of trade unions may well account for Derek never having been called on to advise the Blair administration.

Your piece (Why do we only worship ‘real’ works of art?, 14 November) refers briefly to Walter Benjamin’s analysis of infinitely reproducible art but doesn’t mention his worry that modern mass reproduction could eventually erode the historical authority of an artwork, jeopardising its traditional testimony as part of a time-tested canon. Indeed, he feared a wider decline of the value of human experience, as once passed between generations through careful storytelling. With today’s instant internet access to countless images and information, a serious debate over a related loss of historical memory and understanding is now growing at last. Great art is not immune to this erosion. It forms a key part of our social memory.
John Chowcat
Wakefield, West Yorkshire

• The piles of glossy art books on sale show that many people enjoy looking at good-quality reproductions of their favourite pictures, even though they would not find it acceptable for the same reproductions to be framed and hung in an art gallery for an exhibition. Many would, however, be happy to hang a good quality reproduction on their walls at home. This surely relates to how we value objects and what we think is worthy of our attention. The bottom line is that we place a much higher value on things that are rare or unique, provided they speak to us in some significant way.
John Gaunt
Lewes, East Sussex

• We shouldn’t be dismissive of reproductions of great works of art, which might make them more accessible to the public and are art in their own right. What we should dismiss are cheap imitations of iconic designs. The government is yet to implement legislation it passed 18 months ago and so it is legal to replicate iconic designs for the likes of furniture. These replicas are often made overseas but their manufacturers use the UK as a shop floor, conning consumers and devaluing the work of talented designers. A great replica of Michelangelo’s David has its own artistic merit. But there are many examples of duplications that are not art. They are only poor-quality forgeries. There should be a stigma attached to them.
Tony Ash
Managing director, Vitra

• I feel the capacity of even the most up-to-date techniques to reproduce original pieces has been exaggerated. I have a screen print by the late Terry Frost on my wall which uses 11 different colours very carefully selected and prepared by the artist. I also have a reproduction of the same work in the complete catalogue of his prints. Even with high-quality scanning and printing processes, the colours in the book are nowhere near the original and lack the brio so characteristic of his work.

Producing a run of 150 prints of an 11 screenprint image is not like pushing the print command and setting a laser printer going. All colour reproductions are reproduced by electronic processes that are essentially a compromise. Any other artistic medium could generate similar caveats.
Murray Marshall
West Grimstead, Wiltshire

• If virtually identical replicas of works of art can now be made, this points to a way of resolving the dispute over the Parthenon marbles: commission the best reproductions money can buy, install them in the British Museum, and send the originals back to Greece. It could be done the other way round; but it seems entirely understandable that the Greeks should want to restore the marbles’ links with a particular historic place and national history. The British Museum, on the other hand, could discharge its wider cultural mission just as well with replicas, as the V&A’s cast display (of objects left where they belong) so well demonstrates.
Hugh Corner
Twickenham, Middlesex

• I once heard Umberto Eco speaking on forgeries. It was about the time that psychiatrist Graziella Magherini was describing Stendhal syndrome. Eco described his own severe bout of it: “I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence.” Stendhal syndrome is hyperkulturemia, manifest in the forms of rapid heartbeat, dizziness, swooning, confusion and even hallucinations when face-to-face with great works of art. Magherini was even providing treatment for it at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital. Given that there are several versions of Michelangelo’s David in Florence: most notably the original in the Accademia and the 20th-century copy outside the Palazzo Vecchio, I asked Eco which was responsible for the greatest number of swoons. His response: “It’s about the same.” So there is a definitive answer to Polly Toynbee’s question.
Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Broadbent
Southsea, Hampshire

• If we removed everything that was not painting from the galleries and museums around the world, there would be a lot of empty space. Photography is the art of the 20th century and the fact that the Tate now has a curator of photography, even though it took until the 21st to get one, proves it, to me at least. There is bad art everywhere. But well-made vintage prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston or Irving Penn as well as being wonderful inspiring images are also objects of great beauty.
Neil Burgess

• An even better idea is to fill the London museums and galleries with reproductions, distribute the originals throughout the UK and let the “fetishistic” Londoner visit Inverness to see those original Rembrandts for a change.
John Warburton

Soccer - Sheffield United Filer The Jessica Ennis stand at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Jessica Ennis-Hill wants her name to be removed from the stand if the club choose to re-sign Ched Evans. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

I joined the protest outside the town hall against Ched Evans being reinstated at Sheffield United Football Club on Saturday. Since the protest hit the news, I have seen comments from the public that I have found to be truly infuriating. From “bunch of rug munchers” to “I bet none of them know the offside rule”, the comments have ranged in both wit and distance from the truth. Many people have asked why we hadn’t protested outside the club’s ground. The abuse that Jessica Ennis-Hill has received since taking her stance on the issue is evidence enough of verbal abuse and worse that would have occurred if we had protested outside the club’s ground (Ennis-Hill sent rape tweets in footballer row, 15 November). Sheffield United have since announced that any fan found abusing protesters will be banned from the club for life. While not the exact outcome I was hoping for, it demonstrates that SUFC have, in fact, heard us. I’d like to set the record straight about why exactly I protested. For me, the protest was not about further condemning a potentially innocent man. The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and until such time as this verdict is overturned, I believe that he should not be allowed to play for the club. I did not protest to invite argument about his conviction, but rather to demonstrate my opinion that convicted rapists should not be allowed to continue in a public and influential role.
Stacey Mottershaw

• The key fact is that Evans is unrepentant. If he was to admit and turn away from his wrongdoing, allowing him to return would send a very different message, to “lads” in particular. It would also underline that true rehabilitation of offenders requires remorse and repentance as otherwise the punishment has not served it’s underlying purpose; it could be argued that the offender has not really paid the full price for their crime and so forfeits their entitlement to rebuild their life without restriction.
David Wyatt

• A football club has stated it will bar for life any Twitter troll threatening rape. The same club invites for training a convicted rapist who maintains he is guilty of nothing more than “infidelity”.
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

• Even if some of Amnesty’s recommendations are belatedly implemented (Report, 12 November), the World Cup in Qatar will still be played over the blood of the hundreds of migrant workers who have died, having been forced to work in appalling conditions. In contrast to the outrage over Ched Evans, I am not aware of patrons, sponsors, players, and management of the British football teams protesting strongly at this human rights abuse and suggesting that the tournament be held elsewhere. If such a demand was made it might restore my belief in the morality of the football industry. I have yet to be convinced.
Barbara Starkey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Russell Brand At Protest To Save Social Housing Russell Brand at a protest to save social housing on the New Era estate in east London, which was bought this year by the US-based company Westbrook Partners. Photograph: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media/Jules Annan / Barcroft Media

The New Era housing estate is owned in New York; army recruitment is run by Capita (Reports, 18 November). I seem to remember that the army’s theatre equipment servicing is being sold off. I can’t keep track of how much public provision is now delivered by A4E, G4S, Serco etc, and the various shadowy outfits running probation or schools, or receiving lucrative NHS contracts. What I’d like for Christmas is a Guardian booklet identifying everything that used to be a public service or utility, or social housing or care home, that is now a nice little earner for some private company – along with an assessment of how much public money goes into these “providers”, how well they function, how much they donate to the political parties, which MPs or ministers are sponsored by them, or sit on their boards, or are married to their CEOs, and by how much we subsidise their low-paid employees. We need to know who owns Britain, who sold it, and how much it is costing us.
Richard Gravil
Penrith, Cumbria


The efforts of the NHS to improve patient safety through greater candour have been hit by the reluctance of trainee doctors to report failings because their anonymity can’t be guaranteed (“Trainee doctors ‘too scared to blow the whistle’”, 19 November).

There are also thousands of NHS professionals without an effective means to report concerns. And this further undermines the NHS’s efforts to improve patient safety.

It’s a travesty that thousands of specialist NHS professionals remain unregulated despite performing procedures and tests on patients that could cause harm.

All staff are able and should raise any concerns they have. But if regulated professionals with a duty to report mistakes and concerns are afraid of speaking out, where does that leave unregulated practitioners or those on voluntary registers to whom the NHS’s duty of candour does not apply?

Amanda Casey
Chair, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Steve Richards’ excellent article on the problems at the Colchester hospital fails to mention the responsibility carried by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, set up under the Government’s NHS reforms to commission care for its local population and alongside that given the responsibility to monitor the multimillion-pound contracts placed with  its local hospital. If, under government reforms, an NHS commissioning body cannot monitor what it buys from an NHS hospital, what chance do we have when these clinical commissioning groups are placing contracts with an increasing number of private-sector providers?

Peter Boileau


Shame on those who side with terror

Four rabbis and a policeman are murdered in a place of prayer in Jerusalem using knives, guns and hatchets and some members of our political class are unable to condemn this terror attack without reservation.

If murdering innocent civilians was not enough, there were then celebrations by Palestinians giving out sweets and calling for more killings.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Ward tweets that the attack is a result of Palestinians “driven to madness by the failure of the international community to deal with Israel”. On the same day, Baroness Warsi also equated Israelis wanting to pray at a holy site, the Temple Mount, to terrorists killing people in a synagogue.

Such distortions only give succour to those whose aim is not only the destruction of Israel but the wider goal of the spread of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world.

The Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps rightly tweeted that Baroness Warsi was speaking for herself and not the Tory Party. Nick Clegg also needs to distance himself from David Ward. Both of them should lose the backing of their respective parties.

To be seen on the side  of terror is not acceptable for any mainstream  British politician and is completely irresponsible.

Paul Corrick

On Tuesday, BBC News gave extended coverage to the murder of four Israelis in Jerusalem at the hands of Palestinians. When would the killing of four Palestinians by Israelis last have been considered worthy of such coverage?

On Wednesday, they reported, with little commentary, that the Israeli Prime Minister had ordered the demolition of the homes of the murderers, where their families still live. If any Palestinian leader had ordered any such thing the international outcry would have been deafening.

Why is this institutional imbalance so entrenched?

Kenneth Wilson
Renwick, Cumbria


Lack of dining car is food for thought

Simon Calder’s views on Eurostar are extraordinary (“Why I am a Eurostar sceptic”, 12 November). I cannot imagine going back to the hassle of air travel to Paris after the convenience of Eurostar. Nor does he seem interested in the green debate about whether we should still be flying polluting planes when  we have high-speed  clean-energy trains.

This ought to be one of the main justifications for a more extensive network of high-speed trains within the UK instead of all this stupid negative debate about HS2.

As ever, the Brits think that they know better than our often more successful Continental friends.

My only objection to Eurostar, and one hopefully that Deutsche Bahn may resolve if and when it  starts running from  St Pancras, is the lack of  a proper dining car.

Eurostar offers standard passengers croissants and pot noodles in a miserable snack bar; and first-class passengers get not much more appetising airline-style packaged meals.

Right from the start this seemed odd, especially when the French pride themselves on their cuisine, and Britain had a worthy tradition of dining-car service on  long-distance trains.

It used to be one of the great joys of longer journeys to be served good-quality meals while whizzing through the countryside. I do not believe the demand no longer exists.

National Express axed the much-loved London to Norwich dining car before losing the franchise, and Abellio has shown no interest in reviving it. There used to be a nightly stampede at Liverpool Street to the dining car because there were always fewer places than the number of would-be diners.

In an age when companies are falling over themselves to provide luxury goods and services, why are no enterprising rail companies trying to  reinvent the dining car?

Gavin Turner
Gunton, Norfolk

Comparing Saudi with Isis is unhelpful

Saudi Arabia’s beheading of those it condemns as criminals may be barbaric (Brian Parkinson, Letters, 18 November). However, the barbarism of Isis is of a completely different order, including “ethnic cleansing” on a large scale; cruel religious persecution; the massacre of prisoners of war; and (without respect of age or sex) of the members of  a tribe that resisted  its tyranny.

Most international opinion has understandably condemned the gruesome murders of Western hostages, some of whom had undertaken humanitarian work in Syria, and one of whom, Alan Henning, had been found innocent of any crime by an Islamic court before his murder.

We may judge Saudi Arabia’s reliance on capital punishment abhorrent, but to compare its actions with those of Isis is unhelpful.

Western media have certainly “in general” said little about Saudi executions compared with their coverage of Isis’s atrocities, but they have certainly not been silent on the subject.

Ralph Houlbrooke

Unlike Brian Parkinson, I am very much in favour of capital punishment and find that I can quite easily spot the difference between the illegal killing of innocent hostages and the legal killing of convicted criminals.

Saudi Arabia, it is true, brings the death penalty into disrepute (by including victimless crimes among its capital offences) but then the Saudi regime simultaneously manages to bring prisons, courts, Islam, politics, education and money into disrepute. I hear no one using moral equivalence to attack any of those.

Keith Gilmour

TTIP would stop us taking back railways

Contrary to Alan Gent’s letter (19 November), many of us are immensely concerned that, alongside the wholesale destruction of the NHS, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will contain legislation that will prevent privatised companies from ever being renationalised.

Given that every poll I’ve ever seen has suggested that an overwhelming proportion of the UK voting public believes that the railways should be renationalised, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t think that the water companies would be better in our hands, it seems astonishing that the Labour Party isn’t shouting their opposition from the rooftops.

Except they aren’t in opposition. If they wonder why those of us who used to support them no longer do, they might look at that.

Manda Scott
Clungunford, Shropshire

PR gets my vote to improve democracy

The best way for politicians to get people to vote (“Make polling days Bank Holidays so more people vote, say MPs”, 14 November) is the way they least like.

In the Scottish referendum the turnout was around 80 per cent because everyone knew they had a voice. I first voted 63 years ago and my vote has never counted. I have always lived in a constituency in which one party had clear dominance.

Proportional representation is the only way to give every person a voice. I look forward (with regret) to my vote not counting next May.

John Laird
Darley, North Yorkshire

Will Cupid’s dart hit the bullseye?

I hope that the search is now on for another gay bull to be Benjy’s civil partner.

Peter Forster
London N4


Sir, Matt Ridley’s piece (“Hurrah for the little-changing face of Britain”, Nov 17) highlights the political traditions that separate Britain and Europe. The history of modern Europe has been obsessed with rationalism, a belief that an ideology dreamt up by political philosophers can be transposed word for word into reality by the implementation of projects from the top down.

Britain, however, has followed a pragmatic and traditionalist approach: change has been adapted and the institutions around us have evolved in order for the status quo to be preserved. This is best illustrated by Professor Michael Oakeshott’s analogy of the ship sailing though the sea “neither starting-place nor appointed destination . . .” and where “the enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel”.

These two distinct traditions will be majorly important in the debate over our continued membership in what is known on the continent as the “European project”.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex

Sir, I noted with pleasure Matt Ridley’s ironic nod to Britain’s traditional suspicion of European super-sovereigns. As he points out, Defoe — if he were to time-travel into 21st century Britain — would be “appalled at the degree to which we are subjects of an alien and unelected European nomenklatura”. As I’m sure he is aware, Defoe’s surprise would be all the more given that the monarch of his day was none other than the sturdily Germanic child of the Holy Roman Empire, Georg Ludwig of Hanover, who acceded to the throne following a series of backroom deals by cosmopolitan proto-Eurocrats only ten years earlier.
Tom Gardner
London SW13

Sir, Matt Ridley tells us that there have been no battles in this country since 1714 except Culloden and the Blitz. Once, every grammar schoolboy would have written notes on the 1745 rising and possibly have read Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, and be familiar with Prestonpans: a real battle with infantry, cavalry and artillery deployed, and significant casualties.
Graham Read

Sir, One thing that Defoe would find little changed is class hierarchy, with people oddly proud to call themselves working or middle class (the upper classes don’t trumpet their status). Until we rid ourselves of these terminologies to insult those seemingly in differing strata, we will not advance, the “us and them” society being perpetuated. Countless obituaries remind us of many people’s accomplishments, their backgrounds not hindering them from achieving remarkable goals. Wallowing in class warfare was not something Defoe did. But then, he did have at least 198 pen names.
Carol Godsmark

Sir, Matt Ridley’s suggestion that very little has substantially changed in Britain since the time of Defoe is nonsense. Britain’s population has increased ten-fold; its urbanised proportion has changed from 20 per cent to 80 per cent; the slave trade has been abolished and child labour outlawed; and capital and corporal punishment no longer exist. We have the NHS, a welfare system, universal suffrage and a multicultural society, with all their imperfections, and we are unrecognisably tolerant compared with the time of Defoe.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Defoe would find a very familiar country. Jonathan Swift I’m sure would feel the same especially about the shenanigans of the present-day financial industry. One only has to read his poem Upon the South Sea Project, describing the disgraceful conduct of financial brokers over the South Sea Bubble, to realise that “plus ça change” applies.
Pete Shea
Old Windsor, Berks

Sir, Matt Ridley reveals perhaps more than he intends when he, a Northumbrian viscount, suggests that Defoe would find “working women” mind-boggling. The economy of 1724 relied just as much on the work of women as does today’s, although, of course, viscountesses might not have been quite so busy.
Nick Ratcliffe

Sir, Surely the pronunciation of “Mx” is “Mex” (report, Nov 17, and letter, Nov 19). It neatly covers ex-Mr, ex-Mrs, ex-Miss and ex-Ms.
Ivan K Rowland
London SE23

Sir, In the circumstances, “Mix” seems entirely appropriate.
June Brough
Halesowen, W Midlands

Sir, Mux.
John Dowie
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Sir, I covered the origin of the tuxedo in my book, Wedding Bells and Chimney Sweeps (letter, Nov 14). Griswold Lorillard, who introduced the jacket to the New York elite, lived on land acquired from the Algonquin Indians that they called P’tauk-seet-dough, meaning “home of the bear”. Phonetically this is “tuxedo”.
Bruce Montague
Hove, E Sussex

Sir, After the G20 summit it should be clear that the Russian takeover of the Crimea is a fait accompli, but that the Russian position in the Ukraine is not, and must not be allowed to be. Crimea, historically part of Russia, could be restored to Russia as part of a bargain with Moscow. The Russians should then remove themselves from all activities in Ukraine. The present crisis is one where “do nothing” is not an option, the history of Georgia proves that.
Richard Hill

Sir, Putin’s propaganda is much more effective than that of the Soviets Union. This is a media war, and we should be pumping money into the BBC Russian Service.
Richard Davy

Sir, While it may be true that authors benefitfrom the wisdom of a “ruthless reviser”, this was not the case with the original The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope (News, Nov 17). Being the last of the Palliser novels, Trollope seems to have intended this work to be a fitting conclusion for the series in the same way that The Last Chronicle of Barset brought together the threads of the Barchester novels. He wrote it as a four-volume novel and it was with disappointment that he learnt that the publisher was only prepared to risk three volumes. There was no editor on hand and Trollope had to tackle the disagreeable task himself. Words, sentences and paragraphs had to be removed. It is, therefore, greatly to his credit that the result should have been so well regarded.

The traditional The Duke’s Childrenis undoubtedly a fine book. However, the extended version, painstakingly re-created by Professor Steven Amarnick and his colleagues, is a revelation that strengthens characterisations and helps us to understand Trollope’s intentions.

As we approach next year’s bicentenary of his birth, I am sure that all Trollope enthusiasts will be looking forward to enjoying this “Lost Chronicle of Omnium”!
Michael G Williamson
Chairman, the Trollope Society


CQC rankings can’t be relied upon; prosecuting British jihadists; Britain’s economic prospects; and one very confused gardener

Patients in England can now compare the quality of GP surgeries

7:00AM GMT 19 Nov 2014


SIR – I would urge the public to be wary of the Care Quality Commission’s assessment of GP practices.

General practice is a vocational art – it is family medicine and should be practised by kind, experienced doctors. The care provided cannot be quantified and is difficult to assess objectively. Does it really matter if rigid protocols are not in place, notices not laminated, or that there are employees – often staff with years of experience, well known in the community and employed by word of mouth – who do not have formal references?

There is something wrong with a world where doctors are chosen by looking online as one might search for a computer or washing machine.

I would think that practices falling short of the CQC’s requisite standards may in fact be better practices where, in these days of increasing pressure, the staff care more about patients than paperwork.

Dr Kate Mash
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Having read your article regarding the rating of GPs, I decided to look up my own surgery on the CQC’s website. I was surprised to find the surgery listed under the names of two partners who retired many years ago. If the CQC has inspected this practice, how can they have missed this?

Ian Fraser
Penwortham, Lancashire

SIR – In the Nineties, our practice was advised by the administrators of the Family Practitioners’ Committee to emulate Harold Shipman. According to their statistics, he was an excellent GP.

Dr Thomas L Cooksey
Oldham, Lancashire

SIR – According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain currently has 30.76 million people in work, out of a total population of 64.1 million. The NHS employs 1.7 million workers, according to its website. Therefore, the NHS employs 5.5 per cent of the country’s working population, or just under 2.7 per cent of the entire population. To put it another way, one in every 18 of the working population, or one in every 37 of the entire country works for the NHS. That seems quite a lot to me.

Brian Terry
South Wonston, Hampshire

SIR – The last thing the NHS needs is to have its money spent putting patients’ medical records online. I suggest that patients who want to read their medical records online should obtain copies from their doctors – at a modest charge to cover administrative costs – and then post their details on Twitter. This would circumvent any privacy concerns and prevent further financial waste on another vainglorious IT white elephant.

Richard Motley

British Isil fighters

SIR – Any citizen of this country who, in any way, helps or takes up arms for an enemy of ours is by definition a traitor.

There have always been the strictest laws against this most serious of offences and jihadists returning from Iraq or Syria should be prosecuted under them. New laws to deal with them are not required.

David Whitaker
Chawton, Hampshire

SIR – Under the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870 it is an offence for any British subject to accept any commission or engagement in the military or naval service of any foreign state at war with any foreign state at peace with Her Majesty.

Anyone guilty of an offence against this Act shall be punishable by fine and imprisonment, or either of such punishments, at the discretion of the court before which the offender is convicted.

This law is still in force, and we are currently at peace with the states of Iraq and Syria.

Tim Devlin
London EC4

Say a little prayer

SIR – During bedtime prayers recently my two-year-old daughter and I were saying the Lord’s Prayer together and I was supplying the first part of each line. It was going well until we got to “Give us this…”

“ …day,” she answered.

“ …our daily…”

“Telegraph”– at which point I was unable to suppress a laugh.

It seems she has spent too much time doing the crossword with Grandma.

Madeleine Murphy
Rugby, Warwickshire

Hearty meals

MasterChef judges: Gregg Wallace, Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti. Photo: BBC

SIR — I am used to unsuccessful competitors on MasterChef describing themselves as feeling “gutted”.

However, I was alarmed to hear one of the judges exhorting them to “cook their hearts out”.

Michael Stanford
London SE23

SIR – Have any of your readers noticed how many restaurants now charge for “side” orders which used to be included in the price of the main course?

They cannot honestly think that I am going to eat a steak on its own.

Carol Thompson
Shepperton, Middlesex

Appropriate apparel

SIR – With reference to the shirt worn by the Rosetta scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, it might be worth noting that his shirt was made voluntarily by his (female) friend.

This is in contrast to the “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and other politicians, which were produced in Third World conditions in exchange for shockingly low wages.

Jonathan Rule

Economic prospects

SIR – David Cameron has warned that a major European slowdown, along with a Japanese recession and China coming off the boil, mean trouble for Britain.

I take issue with this analysis. It is rooted in the ongoing drought in taxable income going to the Treasury, which exaggerates the excessively high level of government borrowing in relation to gross national product.

This is happening because the upsurge in employment has resulted in the utilisation of low-paid workers who are earning below the tax threshold. But this is good news. We can expand the economy without long-term overheating and without putting interest rates up. This prospect gives a long-term opportunity to rectify our debt imbalance.

British politicians of the Eighties and Nineties would have given their eye teeth for problems like ours today.

Robert Alexander

SIR – Labour has always claimed the immense deficit wasn’t their fault because there was a global crash while they were in power.

Yet now that our economy is at risk of declining because the world is heading towards recession, Ed Miliband says the current government would be to blame in such an event.

You can’t have it both ways – either the government is responsible or it isn’t.

Gareth Salter
Thorney, Cambridgeshire

Untidy Britain

SIR – How right R K Hodge is about Singapore.

The place just works – the traffic flows, it’s clean, people are law-abiding and I found it a joy to be there last week among such friendly and helpful people.

My previous visit was as a child in the Fifties, when Britain also had those qualities. Why have we lost them?

A L Knight

SIR – The verges and lay-bys on the highways in America are generally free of litter, unlike those of Britain.

In America there are regular small signs on highways warning that jettisoning litter will result in a substantial fine.

A few similar signs on British highways would serve as a reminder to both the litterbugs and their families, who could help to enforce the law.

Paul d’Apice
Hillsboro, Ohio, USA

Gone to pot

SIR – I am not sure whether we have global warming, cooling, wetting or drying; but in my garden at the moment I have roses out, a narcissus blooming and artichokes that will soon be ready for the pot.

I am rather at a loss as to what to plant, and for when.

Elizabeth Wood
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Not enough has been done to hold back the flood

Two Somerset residents survey their house during the last bout of flooding . Photo: Alamy

SIR – The Met Office now predicts another exceptionally wet winter in southern Britain.

While much dredging has been undertaken since the floods of last winter, I am far from sure that the same effort has been put into maintaining, repairing, replacing or even introducing for the first time sluice gates at the seaward end of these waterways. It is all very well improving the flow of water into the sea but unless means are in place to prevent the inflow of tidal water, all such efforts will be in vain.

I should welcome confirmation from the Environment Agency that all necessary work on sluice gates has been completed – confirmation that I know would be equally welcome to the residents of the Somerset Levels.

Chris Rome
Thruxton, Hampshire

Is Band Aid designed to help Africans or Geldof?

SIR – Bob Geldof has been painted as a saint but, as Bryony Gordon writes, in reality he has not given much out of his own pocket – it’s ordinary people who have made the sacrifices, not the exceedingly rich Mr Geldof.

It seems that everything Mr Geldof has done has been primarily to promote Mr Geldof. If this means making snide and incorrect statements about other artists, such as Adele, who preferred not to be involved with his project but made a private donation to Oxfam, so be it.

Mr Geldof’s disregard for the public was best demonstrated by his refusal to stop swearing during a recent radio interview.

Miss Gordon should be praised for bringing this sham to our attention, yet I wonder if the marketing machine that Mr Geldof has in place will do everything it can to discredit her as it has tried to do with Adele.

W R Zeller
Groomsport, County Down

SIR – As a pensioner, I have no spare money; I have problems finding money for the upkeep of the house, and body and soul.

Bob Geldof is worth £32 million. One would have thought that, rather than get the common man to give money on his say-so to charity, he could give away millions of pounds to charity and still remain very rich.

J H Moffatt
Bredbury, Cheshire

SIR – An unwanted side-effect of the re-recording of the charity single by Band Aid is the confrontation of age and the passage of time. I clearly remember watching the original 30 years ago, and smirking at the sad middle-aged among us who claimed not to recognise a single performer in the group. That sad middle-aged man is now me.

Benjamin L C Smith
Hedge End, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Irish people have shown incredible restraint over the six years since the emergence of austerity government in the wake of financial irregularities in the Irish banking system and we need to recognise this as tempers threaten to run out of control in the political struggle over water charges. There are two parties to such disputes in any democracy and two parties against which accusations of blameworthiness can be directed.

Dignified protest about the bailout has been present from the beginning, particularly in the inspiring Ballyhea campaign. I believe that there have now been no fewer than 194 serious but entirely law-abiding protests. But what is the attitude of the political establishment to Ballyhea? Little more at its best, it would seem, than benign neglect or indifference. A government has a duty to respond to peaceful protest. A failure to do so in the long run will lead to protests that are far from peaceful.

In the general election of 2011, the Irish people placed their trust to an unusual degree in Labour on the basis of a manifesto which, for example, opposed water charges.

The receipt of water charges that cannot be paid because of previous austerity measures is a threat in itself to people who try to live without debt. This threat seems to have escaped the notice of political elites that are themselves cushioned from such debts.

Finally, Irish taxpayers are not responsible for the debts of foreign bankers or indeed of Irish bankers. It is a failure of democracy to impose these debts upon them. And indeed they are unsustainable as well as intolerable. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2.

Sir, – For the last few months hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland have protested about the water charges and the handling of the issue. The Government and politicians duly ignored them. I believe that out of a sense of frustration some people have resorted to violent protests. I don’t condone violence, in particular the violence of the protests experienced by the Tánaiste in Jobstown and the Taoiseach in Sligo.

However, the Government and our elected representatives need to hang their heads in shame at what they have driven the people to. Listening, engaging with and treating the people with common courtesy would have had a much better effect than totally disregarding the more than 100,000 peaceful protesters. – Yours, etc,


Achill Island,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – Stephen O’Byrnes’s article is rather odd (“‘Peaceful protest’ over Irish Water is truly a charade”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). If there has been such a radical revision of the water scheme, is it not right to assume that protest was justified, and necessary, and that the Government is now acknowledging that its original plan was flawed?

As for his “iPads and iPhones” comment, is it that journalists may use them, but not the demonstrators they are covering? Mr O’Byrnes may as well say that the protesters were “well fed” or had “homes to go to”. As for the lead statement “fomented by extreme left-wing factions . . . to undermine democratic politics”, is that not an adage used by any establishment under pressure?

As for the Joan Burton incident, yes, of course it is bad stuff, inappropriate for this dimension of agitation, and invalid, not least because she clearly has been the most sympathetic voice inside Government of those opposed to the water blunder. Yet if people “lose it” in response to what is felt as unjust, it may be shocking, but isn’t that an occasional feature of politics, and of history? – Yours, etc,


Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Capped water charges and deferred bonuses for a fixed period. Can people not see through this ploy? The charge will have to go up at some stage. How else are we going to pay a monopolistic Irish Water’s costs, which include excess staff, gold standard salaries, lucrative bonuses and increments, and all before a drop of water is treated? Surely rationalisation of Irish Water should have been the Government’s priority. At least that way most of the money raised would go to water treatment and delivery. It seems like this is all just a quick fix to get them through the next election. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Unlike a significant number of water protesters, I have no issue with paying for water or indeed providing my PPS number, but I do have major concerns that this Government has set up a behemoth to address the infrastructural problems with our water system. The setting up of Irish Water, with its substantial workforce and vague pay structures, nearly guarantees domestic water charges will be considerably higher in the years to come. Why couldn’t water charges just be included in the property tax, distributed to the local authorities and used to improve the infrastructure?

How much will Irish Water cost to run each year? With the new charges now being proposed, will there be any funds remaining to update the water infrastructure? – Yours, etc,


Donabate, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I am sure that Enda Kenny regrets the “Paddy likes to know” remark (along with many other comments) but he continues to stumble from crisis to crisis.

I understand that Fine Gael finds it galling to be regarded as Fianna Fáil-lite but it took Fianna Fáil a lot longer to lose touch with the people. I don’t mind paying for water but I do mind paying for Irish Water. Irish Water is the manifestation of everything that is wrong with politics and public administration in Ireland and will cause Fine Gael (and its willing partner) to drown. – Yours, etc,


Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Sir, – In the 6th century BC, Pisistratus built the first aqueduct in Athens, allowing a reliable water supply to sustain the large population. He wrote, “Every citizen pays a tithe on his property to a fund for defraying the cost of public sacrifices or any other charges on the state”. He would have fitted meters if they were available! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Can Phil Hogan’s “triumphant ride into the sunset” (Michael Harty, November 19th) be further classified as a not-before-time escape (for us), a brain drain (for the government), or an accident waiting to happen for Europe? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – In “What’s the big idea? It’s time for the State to consider a real democracy” (Opinion & Analysis, November 18th), Fintan O’Toole suggests that the State should consider real democracy. Yet at no stage does he articulate how this “real democracy” would be delivered and what specific aspects of the current process he would change and how he would change them.

There are failings in the current process, but the primary failing has been in how the system has been used by the voters to make choices that they then deny all responsibility for. We hear much of the failure of the political system to curb the mistakes of the governments from 1997 to 2011 yet little about the failure of the electorate to deliver any electoral admonishment to those same governments.

He says that we should have “a real, vibrant, engaged, republican democracy that is capable of using the energies and ideas – social, political, economic – of all its citizens”. As a road map to how this “real democracy” would be achieved, this is as much use as a faded black-and-white picture of an unidentified beach is in planning a summer holiday.

Democracy is the means by which we can exercise the power to make choices about our present and future as a nation and take the responsibility to live with the consequences of them and to learn from them. We have democracy; what we lack are enough people who are interested in exercising it, in stretching it to its full potential, to make it work for the nation and not just themselves. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – The Céifin Centre has been promoting debate on values-led change since 1998, and in this time it has published papers from 80 speakers, national and international. As founder and chairman of the centre, I want to concur with Fintan O’Toole’s suggestion that the next big idea needed to transform Ireland might be democracy itself.

The current protests are clearly not just about Irish Water. They are more about a people who have had enough of the failures of top-down leadership. These amount to a systemic failure which we can see not just in the present controversy, but in our hospitals, in our banks and in the church.

Surely the time has come for a movement that will facilitate local leadership to drive the next, necessary transformation that Irish society so clearly needs. As Mr O’Toole so rightly says, “The evidence is piling up that if the people don’t own the system, they’ll break it.” – Yours, etc,



The Céifin Centre

for Values-Led Change,

Drumgeely Hill,


Co Clare.

Sir, – Last week we were in the public gallery of Dáil Éireann to lend our support to Maíria Cahill during the debate on her rape by a member of the Provisional IRA. Maíria is a brave young woman who is being subjected to a campaign of demonisation which we know only too well.

It is a strange world when those who made victims of the innocent can then claim that they are now the real victims.

Our son Paul was battered to death seven years ago by a gang who told him exactly who they were. When we said exactly who they were, we were accused of political attacks on Sinn Féin, whose name we had never even mentioned. Worst of all, Sinn Féin spokesmen from their president down publicly accused our son of being a criminal before we even had a chance to bury him. They have never withdrawn those slanders.

The campaign of demonisation against our son, our family and our support group has clearly impeded the Garda investigation and reduced the chances of bringing his murderers – more than a dozen of them – to justice. There was no reason for Sinn Féin to get involved in Paul’s case or in Maíria’s case; it chose to do so for its own reasons.

Truly decent people can figure out who the real victims are in these and many other cases. We hope Maíria and those who support her will stand firm and continue to pursue justice. – Yours, etc,




Co Armagh.

Sir, – The Minister for Justice should be encouraged and supported in her legislative efforts to criminalise the buying of sex. Shifting the focus to the buyer, of whom the vast majority are men, allows society to confront the realities surrounding the commodification and the demeaning of sexual relations between women and men.

It also sends a powerful message to a highly lucrative criminal network based on the exploitation of women’s and girl’s bodies. I agree with the statement made recently in the Dáil by the Independent TD Thomas Pringle when he said that “gender equality is not achievable as long as women are for sale”.

Alongside the passing of this important legislation, the Government needs to offer alternatives to women who engage in prostitution by the provision of appropriate health, and social services and opportunities for second-chance education and employment. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin tells us that Travellers are to be declared a distinct ethnic group (“Traveller ethnicity will be reality in six months, says Ó Riordáin”, November 19th).

One strong reason for not doing this is that those who declare themselves to be Travellers are not a distinct ethnic group – they could not be more Irish.

The Census 2011 reveals that self-declared Travellers belong to the lowest socioeconomic category as measured by life expectancy, health, education and workforce participation. To declare them a distinct ethnic group risks perpetuating disadvantage. The Government should promote upward social mobility, equality and integration for all citizens.

Countries such as India that struggle to shed the legacy of a caste system will be shocked by a developed country about to introduce one.– Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, November 15th) references “Cut-Throat Lane East”, “Cut-Throat Lane West” and “Murdering Lane” in his piece on Dublin life and conditions in the late 1700s and early 1800s. My research indicates Brookfield Road and Old Kilmainham as their modern counterparts.

On this theme, I would add “Hangman’s Lane” (now Hammond Lane), “Gallows Road” (now Lower Baggot Street), and “Gibbet Meadow” (now Mespil Road). – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The case between Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington and NUI Galway has highlighted, once more, what has been patently obvious in the Irish university sector for many decades now (“NUI Galway ordered to promote lecturer overlooked over gender”, November 18th). Female academics holding permanent senior positions such as senior lecturer, professor or dean are rare in Ireland. Female academics who are parents of young children occupying permanent senior positions are rarer still. What does this communicate to the student population, which, by contrast, displays an equal male-female balance from undergraduate through to post-doctoral levels when overall university intake figures are considered? – Yours, etc,


Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Minister for Children Dr James Reilly apparently believes that no provision can be made through tax credits or tax returns for tax relief on childcare costs because it discriminates against stay at home parents (“Government officials rule out tax relief for childcare”, November 17th, 2014).

There is tax relief on bicycle purchases and public transport through employment schemes. This discriminates against those not in employment.

Did it not occur to Dr Reilly or his officials that the families on one income while one parent is at home are the very families in dire need of tax relief? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, November 19th) uses a light-hearted approach while raising the important issue of prostate screening. His message is clear and succinct. The late Prof John Fitzpatrick – professor of surgery at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, and a world leader in prostate cancer research – continuously advocated for digital rectal examination (DRE) over blood testing and thankfully, as GPs, we are now in an environment to follow this advice and recommend a DRE in the first instance.

It is a well-tolerated, brief and hugely revealing examination that men should discuss openly with their friends and GPs alike. No embarrassment or comic relief is necessary when considering it. – Yours, etc,


Strandhill, Co Sligo.

Sir, – So the Government has published proposals for the 1916 commemoration ceremonies and the relatives don’t like them so they propose to have separate ceremonies of their own (November 15th)?

Oh dear, the irony of it. What better way to remember the men of 1916 than with a split! – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

I was taken aback to see representatives of Childline on the ‘Late Late Show’. The reason they were on the programme was because they are in danger of not being able to keep their telephone lines – and staff to man them – going beyond January 2015, due to the lack of funds.

Childline is not funded by the Government and is the only organisation of its kind in Europe that does not have government funding.

Childline is a vital service for children who are being raped, abused and bullied to telephone and connect with an adult who will listen to their pain and be there for them and encourage them to speak to other adults who may be able to help them.

Is this the same Government that is recently taking abuses, rapes and the suffering of adults who were abused as children with such seriousness that they are speaking out about it every other day in Dail Eireann?

The same Government that is meeting with abused people and speaking of their suffering with such eloquence and seriousness?

Is this the same Government that is withdrawing funding from Rape Crisis Centres where people are now on waiting lists for their services?

I find it very difficult to add these two governments together. The one that speaks so seriously about the damage and pain caused to people when they were children, the one that talks the talk but when it comes to walking the walk – by providing services for today’s children – they are cutting funding and, in Childline’s case, not funding them at all.

If only they would act with the same passion by putting their money where their mouths are, then today’s children would have such a better chance of growing into adulthood less troubled and traumatised.

They should all be ashamed of their lack of action. For God’s sake, give Childline the funding it requires.

Anne Hennessy

Callan Co Kilkenny

So what else can go wrong?

The attempted introduction of water charges in its present form was wrong. The type of protest in Tallaght last Saturday was wrong. The point scoring re the Mairia Cahill case is wrong.

The eviction of people from their homes by order of the courts is wrong. The attempt by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have a friend elected senator was wrong.

The present Government’s continued adherence to agreements signed by the last government with the IMF/EU/ECB is totally wrong.

The present medical card system is not just wrong, it is bordering on a criminal offence against the old and the sick – the poorest members of our society.

The salaries paid to ministers is wrong and disgusting, especially when they attempt to tell the citizens that “we know how you feel”. They then ask our youth to go out and work for nothing while at the same time telling us that we have fully recovered from austerity.

If our country is run by what we see and hear in Dail Eireann then it’s no wonder we are in the mess we are in. Many years ago, during times of poverty, we all escaped and laughed at the antics of the Three Stooges – Curly, Moe and Larry

The patriots of 100 years ago fought hard to relieve us from a foreign power to rightfully allow us to govern ourselves. We’ve repaid them by handing back that power for the sacredness of the mighty euro.

I wonder what the Three Stooges’ next picture will be?

Fred Molloy

Dublin 15

Split over Rising celebrations

So the Government has published proposals for the 1916 commemoration ceremonies and the relatives of those who fought in the Rising don’t like them. So they have proposed to have separate ceremonies of their own.

Oh dear, the irony of it.

What better way to remember the men of 1916 than with a split!

Brendan Casserly

Bishopstown, Cork

No bull, life is great these days

It seems the only one that is happy in Ireland these days is Benji the gay bull.

Kevin Devitte

Westport, County Mayo

Every baby’s life counts

We are families whose children were diagnosed with life-limiting conditions, such as anencephaly, or Trisomy 18 or 13.

Because of this, our children have been labelled as ‘incompatible with life’, a medically meaningless, cruel and hurtful term. We call on all medical, legal and media professionals to immediately cease the use of the phrase ‘incompatible with life’, which is not a medical diagnosis, and which is used to deny the humanity of our children and the value of their lives.

Some of our children’s lives were all-too-short, but they never knew anything but love. We had the chance to hold them in our arms, to meet them and surround them with love, even if only for a brief time, and that meant everything to us. Our children are carved in our hearts forever.

We have listened with concern, then, to the debate on legalising abortion for children with profound disabilities.

We understand, better than most, that receiving a diagnosis of a limited life for your child is a hugely upsetting experience, and that parents need better care at this time.

Most of all, parents need to be given factual information and support. Too often, they are nudged and pushed towards abortion and are denied the precious time that we experienced with our children; a time which helped us to heal.

In particular, we have recently seen commentators claim that we caused our children pain because we did not abort them, while others have insisted that our children were ‘incompatible with life’, and were dismissive of the view that their lives had value.

The first allegation is simply dreadful and has caused huge distress to parents who have already lost their children. Children born with a life-limiting condition are entitled to the best care possible. Our babies were made comfortable after they were born, and those who passed away did so peacefully in our arms. In sharp contrast, abortion ends the life of a child with a profound disability in the same manner as it does for any unborn child, and in this case these are often late-term abortions. Secondly, the truth is that there is no condition, none whatsoever, where a medical professional can say that a child will certainly die before birth.

Some of our children spent just hours or days in their parents’ arms before they passed away. Others defied all expectations and lived for much longer. Kathleen Rose Harkin has just celebrated her eighth birthday with Trisomy 13, often described as a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, while Elaine Fagan made medical history living for 25 years with Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome.

Over 90pc of Irish parents facing a life-limiting diagnosis continue with their pregnancy. The phrase ‘incompatible with life’, must cease to be used immediately, since it is unhelpful, misleading and hurtful. Our children’s disability may have been profound, but they were alive and kicking in the womb.

These are our most special children. They deserve better than abortion. Their families, like ours, deserve better care and support, following the model of perinatal hospice care. Most of all, families deserve not to be misinformed, and to have their children’s lives respected.

Tracy Harkin

Every Life Counts,

41 Dominick St Lower, Dublin 1

Irish Independent


November 19, 2014

19 November 2014 Fluff

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and take Fluff to the vet to have five teeth out.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Lucien Clergue – obituary

Lucien Clergue was a photographer known for his friendship with Picasso and his images of bullfighting and nudes

Lucien Clergue with his first camera at Montmajour Abbey in Arles in 2004

Lucien Clergue with his first camera at Montmajour Abbey in Arles in 2004 Photo: AFP

6:41PM GMT 18 Nov 2014


Lucien Clergue, who has died aged 80, was a French photographer whose friendship with Pablo Picasso helped forge a passion for bulls in the ring and women on the beach.

A short, sharply dressed man with a clipped beard, Clergue was a true Mediterranean. He lived in the Arles area for most of his life, photographing its bullfights, circuses and local beauties.

The last were the subject of a series of nudes taken in the dunes and surf along the coast of the Camargue. He treated a nude as if it were a landscape: his models were generally photographed in part, mostly with faces out of frame, and with their contours striped with shadows or, as he put it, “dressed in light”. They often appeared more like Henry Moore’s amorphous sculptures than real women.

However, Clergue’s impact on the photographic community was perhaps more pronounced away from the lens. In 1968 he co-founded the Rencontres d’Arles festival in his home town, now one of the most important dates in the photography calendar; 96,000 people visited in 2013.

Enamoured by the legacy of Vincent van Gogh, who had lived with Paul Gauguin in the city during the late 19th century, Clergue acknowledged that the artist’s “presence was all over Arles, his shadow is in every corner”. Picasso was his other great inspiration. The pair met in 1953 outside the city’s bull-ring, where Clergue had photographed the toreadors and baying crowds.

The teenage photographer accosted Picasso, then 52, and showed him his photographs.

“I don’t know what gave him the feeling that I had something,” recalled Clergue, “but he said: ‘I’d like to see more.’ ” The pair collaborated on several projects and their friendship lasted until Picasso’s death in 1973. “Clergue’s photographs are from God’s own sketchbooks,” declared Picasso.

Lucien Clergue was born in Arles on August 14 1934. His parents divorced when he was seven, and the young Lucien worked at his mother’s grocery shop, running deliveries to the neighbourhood brothels. “It was my first impression with not exactly nudity but of the femininity of women in their beauty and their charm,” he recalled.

Portrait of Pablo Picasso taken by Lucien Clergue (AFP)

At 18 he returned as a customer. “I went to the prostitutes myself. It was like a celebration. I remember always climbing this little staircase and closing the window in the boudoir, thinking van Gogh did the same thing, imagining him maybe looking out at the river and saying to himself: ‘Maybe I should do a painting from here.’ ”

Clergue’s first enthusiasm was for music, which remained a pivotal influence. “When I heard a J S Bach piece for violin, Ciaccona, I was 14, and I entered into another world,” he said. “I was studying violin but because I had no money I turned to photography.” At 19 he encountered Picasso, at that time living close by in Vallauris, and his career took off. Picasso introduced him to Jean Cocteau and Max Ernst and designed a cover and poster for his first book.

Clergue’s work embraced esoteric Provençal characters, including the Saltimbanques, the region’s travelling acrobats and harlequins. He also worked on a series of photographs of Gipsies that helped to bring the flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata to a larger audience. But mostly he was known for his nudes, which drew heavily on the work of the American photographer Edward Weston. “Really, you couldn’t get any better than that,” said Clergue. “I decided I will do the nude like him.” The lack of heads in his photographs evolved from the fact that his earliest models were often his friends and requested anonymity.

Lucien Clergue in Paris in 1981 (AFP)

In 1959 the photographer and curator Edward Steichen bought 10 of Clergue’s prints for MoMA’s permanent collection. Two years later he included a selection of Clergue’s pictures in his exhibition “Diogenes with a Camera”, at the New York museum, alongside the work of Bill Brandt.

Founding Rencontres d’Arles with the writer Michel Tournier placed Clergue fully at the heart of the international photographic community. The festival became renowned for introducing new photographers and staging unusual exhibitions in the city’s historic sites, such as medieval chapels or 19th-century industrial buildings.

Clergue was made a knight of the Légion d’honneur in 2003 and elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts three years later. He was chairman of the academy for 2013.

He published numerous books, including Picasso My Friend (1993), a memoir of his time with Pablo. Other volumes concentrated on his favourite themes: erotica (Practical Nude Photography, 2003) and bullfighting (Tauromachies, 1991). A retrospective, Lucien Clergue: Poésie Photographique – Fifty Years of Masterworks, was published in 2003.

Provence remained his muse. Breakfasting on “fruits, cookies and tea of thyme”, he continued to roam the area until late in life, photographing its beauty and drama. “Mediterranean countries are the beginning of civilisations,” he said earlier this year. “So my roots are full of these civilisations of the South, the theatre in particular, the tragedy, and also the sculptures of women naked. We have in Arles the Venus of Arles. She is my favourite.”

Lucien Clergue’s wife Yolande, the founder of the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, survives him with their two daughters.

Lucien Clergue, born August 14 1934, died November 15 2014


Nigel Walker Nigel Walker’s lectures were considered Oxford’s best

As an Oxford student in the 1960s, I thought the lectures by Nigel Walker the best in the university. He was the first lecturer to ask the audience to rate his performance. After analysing the questionnaires, he announced that our only complaint was the screech his chalk made on the blackboard. He promised to go for further training.

Intermingling identities

Timothy Garton Ash provides a valuable and timely exposition of victims becoming victimisers in Poland as well as in Israel (A little miracle lightens Warsaw, 7 November). I observed this myself as a (Christian) visitor in Poland six years ago. But he could advance the “better place in the relations between … Poles and Jews” if in his terminology he were to avoid the grievous disjunction of mutually exclusive terms Poles and Jews, and so acknowledge their “intermingling”. Many Jews are Poles, just as many can now be called “Germans”.

Garton Ash himself recognises that 20,000 Israelis have taken Polish citizenship. All the Polish Jews are Poles, which is surely the message of that Yiddish “spine-tingling refrain” he will never forget: Mir zaynen do! “We are here!”
Ren Kempthorne
Nelson, New Zealand

Beware repressive laws

As a Canadian, I was most concerned to read your editorial Canada under attack (31 October). It appears to many of us that you have been reading our conservative press, who echo our official Canadian government stance, which is slanted in order to give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service greater powers over our democratic freedoms. This approach is nothing short of hysteria and we would certainly not call it a proper response.

The young men who committed these terrible acts felt they had no place in Canadian society, and targeted official representatives of our society. Canadian Muslim leaders have officially condemned their actions.

We do appreciate your conclusion that many (most?) of us, including all three opposition leaders, wish our political leadership would pause before drafting legislation which limits civil liberties in the name of national security, as this seems to be totally unnecessary.
Christine Johnston
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Advancing a western agenda

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s new foreign policy chief (7 November), relishes her “firefighter’s role” too much. By denouncing the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk last month and declaring her commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, she is presenting a recipe for disaster.

The borders of Ukraine are not inviolable and a European-oriented Ukraine without the eastern oblasts (and Crimea) is very possible and maybe perhaps even desirable.

Such intransigence encouraged by her declarations sends the new government in Ukraine a message that cannot lead to anything but more unrest and violence. Negotiations with the separatist groups, who represent real concerns of the Russian-speaking majorities in eastern Ukraine, need to be undertaken based on the principle of national self-determination.

Mogherini is using Ukraine to advance a western agenda aimed at the so-called imperialist Putin, meanwhile ignoring the very real problems of the Ukrainian people. The EU should be encouraging peaceful dialogue between the conflicting parties with the goal of a settlement of outstanding issues, even it means boundary changes.
Robert Milan
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Population pressures

Three interlinked pieces in your 7 November issue brought home the destructive realities of the Anthropocene. Lost Mayan civilisations are being uncovered in Campeche’s forests (Rescued from the jungle); we will have a human population of over 10.4 billion by 2100 (Not even WW3 will save us); and we are now having to irrigate our crops with saline water (Spud poised to launch revolution).

Mayan civilisation collapsed because population growth imposed the need for greater harvests, which in turn led to unsustainably intensive agriculture, soil degradation, falling yields and starvation. Mankind had succeeded in destroying its own habitat.

But the Maya are not the only example; many other civilisations have foundered on the rocks of soil destruction and loss due to poor agricultural practices and failed land husbandry. And we still continue to batter the natural resources of our poor planet.

Human-induced climate change is now causing sea level rises that are contaminating fresh water supplies and obliging us to adapt our crops to the new saline reality. Meanwhile, there seems to be no end in sight as the global population continues to burgeon, thus putting intolerable pressure on the planet’s few remaining resources.

Was Private Frazer of Dad’s Army fame right to observe, whenever possible, that we’re all doomed?
Brian Sims
Bedford, UK

We’re not really that free

For Natalie Nougayrède, the conflict between east and west is between them and us (Two angry men harangue the west, 7 November): “They concentrate power, repress opposition, restrict media freedom, control the internet and have cowed the judiciary.” But Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan must see us as concentrating wealth among a few bloated billionaires who are empowered to control almost every aspect of our lives, who then tell us through the media they own that we’re leading a free and fortunate life, and that our system generously rewards the daring few.

As for the internet, I thought Edward Snowden demonstrated how free that is.
Chris Rezel
Rosebery, Northern Territory, Australia

Flag debate is a distraction

New Zealand’s referendum on a new flag is a distraction from initiatives that will render our national identity meaningless (World roundup, 7 November). The secretly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is a cynical power grab by multinational companies that will prevent local responses to climate change, and enforce use of toxic chemicals and GM crops.

Destroying our brand will suit competitors well, yet there is extraordinary local media acquiescence to the TPP agenda. Our newspapers need to give more space to nationwide protests against the TPP than the Guardian Weekly gave to the false flag debate.
Jon Carapiet
Auckland, New Zealand

Insurgency and resistance

While I enjoyed George Monbiot’s article on the corruption of language for political ends (31 October), he missed the most gratuitous and damaging example. When one country invades another and its citizens fight back, they are properly called “the resistance”, but when we invaded Iraq and some Iraqis fought back (as they were perfectly entitled to do under any conceivable international law), they somehow became “the insurgency”.

An insurgent is defined as one who surges in, so since the US army surged into Iraq, the word is properly applied to them. I am reminded that during the second world war the Germans referred to the French resistance as “terrorists”.
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US

• I would like to give my appreciation and commend George Monbiot for his most excellent article. It was terrific: a pleasure to read and digest.
Allan Cameron
Christchurch, New Zealand


• There were recognisable aspects to the story about a prime minister who “divides and rules”, who is “a very polarising person”, and who “needs enemies and is always creating them” (Hollowing out democracy via ‘endless cynicism’, 7 November). So are accounts that “all decisions are made by him”, a prime minister for whom “control is the key word” and who uses “advertising money to intimidate” critics. Hungary and Canada have a lot in common.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

• If the figures of the CIA World Factbook are to be believed, then the “significant oil strike” of 50m barrels found in the North Sea (31 October) should satisfy the UK’s million-barrel-a-day oil habit for about a month and a half. Surely this underlines the need for us to ease ourselves off our addiction to fossil fuels sooner rather than later.
Michael Dees
São Paulo, Brazil

• Commemorations of the first world war have already started with Remembrance Day here in Australia (7 November). In spite of the pain and sorrows wars have caused, we still engage in them.

But thanks to the designer of the display of poppies around the Tower of London called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, we still remain cognisant to the beauty of nature and life. Many thanks for the article and photograph.
Rosemary Kornfeld
Mittagong, NSW, Australia

Please send letters to

Joseph Boughey

19.10 GMT

Sonia Rolt was one of the most significant early members of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), and part of its ruling council between 1948 and 1951. She was the only council member who was actually employed in carrying by boat, as opposed to enthusiasts who organised small carrying businesses, or others like Tom Rolt, who were very knowledgable in varied manners.

She understood not only the problems of many boatpeople but also that trade possibilities were confined to limited routes. This did not meet with the approval of Robert Aickman, who chaired the IWA and succeeded in forcing out members who did not agree to campaign for the revival of carrying on all inland waterways. Sonia, along with Tom, found this intolerable and chose to be expelled.

After Tom’s early death, Sonia’s efforts ensured that his works mostly remained in print, and she brought his final volume of autobiography, renamed Landscapes With Figures, to publication in 1992. Without her influence, the extensive commemorations of Tom’s centenary in 2010 would not have come about.

British Prime Minister David Cameron David Cameron has warned that ‘red lights are flashing on the world economy’. Has he finally been persuaded that the Labour government wasn’t to blame for the crash?’ asks Ken Vines. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty

David Cameron’s article (Red lights are flashing on the world economy, 17 November) starts: “Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees … ” I don’t normally welcome people of Cameron’s persuasion writing for the Guardian but, if it has finally persuaded him that the Labour government wasn’t to blame for the crash, perhaps readers can look forward to articles indicating Damascene conversions from George Osborne, Danny Alexander et al, who rarely miss an opportunity to prattle on about the “mess that Labour left us”.
Ken Vines
Yelverton, Devon

• So David Cameron is warning about the world economy. One hopes he and Osborne will not use this as an excuse for insufficient progress on paying down the deficit despite all the suffering their austerity measures have caused. Just as the Brown government faced financial meltdown, Cameron’s government may now face events beyond its control: they expected Labour to apologise for events not of its making so I am hopeful the Conservatives will be apologising for continued problems. I’m also hoping that they may learn from Labour that one does not just talk about being all in this together, but actually takes action to reduce inequality.

I am not a Labour supporter but have been amazed at how the party has been prepared to let the Conservatives blame it for the economic crisis, which was international and which it handled better than most other governments. If there was any blame specific to the UK it goes back to Margaret Thatcher and her deregulation of the banks and other financial institutions.
Eunice Hinds

• At last, Dave Cameron has admitted that austerity is a failure. The austerity measures implemented across Europe and the globe have failed. The only economies that are succeeding globally are those that did not implement the “slash and burn” policies that we now see having a devastating effect. Austerity measures have devastated society and communities across the UK. Now a report by the London School of Economics and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has shown the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Austerity is not working, we need a change.
Duncan Anderson
Immingham, Lincolnshire

• David Cameron wants to put rocket boosters behind the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In doing this he is following the advice of the then governor of the Deutsche Bundesbank, who in 1998 praised governments for preferring “the permanent plebiscite of the global markets” to “the plebiscite of the ballot box”. We seem to be leaving democracy floundering. Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies wrote: “If we wish freedom to be safeguarded, then we must demand that the policy of unlimited economic freedom be replaced by the planned economic intervention of the state. We must demand that unrestrained capitalism give way to economic interventionism.” Perhaps the rocket boosters should be placed behind Cameron.
Alec Murdoch

• When David Cameron warns of a second global crash, what he really means is that we haven’t fixed the causes of the first one. The banks are still playing double or quits with international financial flows. The wealthy are still removing vast sums from national economies and from consumer markets. Bleeding chunks of the general population have no viable work environment. Consumption is still dependent on low-wage, outsourced exploitation. TTIP demonstrates Cameron is as gullible as was Gordon Brown. Our political leaders sit around larger and larger tables, making promises they have no idea how to keep. In a era of mass communication, established politicians get so much information every day they cannot get their heads around any of it: so ideology becomes a life raft. Technology is making “monkey see, monkey do” of all of us.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• It’s a bit rich that Cameron is talking about red lights flashing over the economy when world experts have been warning for at least the last four years that the policies of his chancellor and those of the same political persuasion as our PM throughout the world would lead to just this.
Peter Collins
Bromley, Kent

• The warning lights that have flashed at David Cameron suggest he is playing Hilaire Belloc’s 1907 strategy from Cautionary Tales for Children: “Always keep a hold of Nurse, / For fear of meeting something worse”. It worked for Margaret Thatcher but is the present PM such good casting?
Iain Mackintosh

• No wonder the red lights are flashing. If we go into economic meltdown, how will all those hedge funds be able to finance his election campaign?
Brian Morris

NHS hts ospital ward reception ‘In terms of reducing adult deaths and money spent, the evidence is that the NHS is one of the most effective and efficient services in the world.’ Photograph: Pulse/PA

Cutting the NHS staff bill (Report, 13 November) ignores a truth that successive health ministers prefer not to tell. Compared to the other 20 main developed nations, the UK is joint bottom of the league table on GDP health expenditure. Over past 30 years only Ireland, Japan and Spain have on average spent as little. All developed nations face the same demographic pressures, but most spend proportionately more on health than we do. If the public understood that we get our NHS relatively cheaply, most would accept 2p on income tax. In terms of reducing adult deaths and money spent, the evidence is that the NHS is one of the most effective and efficient services in the world. We can’t go on demanding more from a frontline staff facing continued pay restraint without providing more resources across the system.
Professor Colin Pritchard
University of Bournemouth

• I am a consultant health economist and recently found myself working on the better care fund for a clinical commissioning group. I was not remotely surprised by the National Audit Office assessment (£1bn NHS savings plan is unrealistic, 11 November). The savings associated with different components of the scheme were simply being made up. This is a part of a culture in the NHS where it is acceptable to tell NHS England you are going to make savings, even though you do not expect to do so. Challenging the evidence is too much like negative thinking, while going along with the game at least buys time for the NHS. But there was no clear evidence to support the figures I saw. In one case, there might have been some savings to the NHS, but not to the public sector. Part of a hospital was to be redesignated as a residential building so long-term patients would be able to live on housing benefit and other social security payments.
Peter West

• The Quality Care Commission’s findings on Colchester hospital (Report, 15 November) are very worrying, but we should also put some of the spotlight on the North East Essex clinical commissioning group. This is the group of GPs set up to commission care for their patients. Surely the CCG which set up multimillion-pound contracts with the Colchester hospital has a responsibility to monitor those contracts and the quality of care? A good indication maybe that the Governments expensive NHS reforms are not working.
Peter John Boileau

Man waving Islamic State flag in Syria A man waves an Islamic State flag in Syria. ‘The government’s latest proposals for dealing with people suspected of going to fight in Syria would extend punishment without trial.’ Photograph: Reuters

The government’s latest proposals for dealing with people suspected of going to fight in Syria (Jihadis face ban from Britain, 14 November) would extend punishment without trial, typical of “anti-terror” powers since the Terrorism Act 2000. A senior police officer could withdraw a passport simply under reasonable suspicion that the person might carry out terrorist activity abroad. As preconditions for citizens returning to the UK, the home secretary could require them to accept prosecution and restrictions on their movement. They would surrender their right to challenge accusations from the state and it would avoid any requirement for evidence that could be tested in a criminal trial. These powers easily substitute racist stereotyping for evidence.

Suspects would face imprisonment or curfew for years, thus plausibly deterring their return home. These powers would offer no way out for those who change their minds. Some British fighters in Syria are horrified and disillusioned about what they have got involved in. They want to return home but fear jail.

The underlying statutory basis is as dangerous as ever. Terrorism encompasses any actions which may pose the threat of “serious damage to property”, in ways “designed to influence the government” for a political cause anywhere in the world. This would include any support for political movements disliked by the UK’s allies. As became clear in the David Miranda case, “suspects” include anyone exposing UK state actions which threaten justice and democracy. The new proposed powers would not protect us from violent attack. They threaten democratic rights, bringing us even closer to a police state.
Jenny Jones Green party, Liz Davies Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Arzu Merali Islamic Human Rights Commission, Les Levidow Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

We have joined nearly 300 groups from across Europe to serve a lawsuit against the European commission at the European court of justice, challenging the commission’s rejection of our right to have a formal petition – a European Citizens’ Initiative – on the controversial EU-US trade deal known as the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership). The TTIP threatens public services, environmental and food protection, workers’ rights and online privacy. The commission refused to sanction even the collection of signatures, arguing that an ECI can only be directed at a legal act being introduced and not work against one that is being negotiated. Our legal challenge disputes this reading of EU legislation. Given that ECIs were conceived as a method of bringing the work of the EU closer to the people of Europe, this decision makes a mockery of their original intent. We call once more for the TTIP to be stopped, for transparency in trade negotiations and for the EU bureaucracy to start listening to its citizens.
Nick Dearden Director, World Development Movement
Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
John Hilary Director, War on Want
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS
Paul Kenny General secretary, GMB
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Ron Singer People’s NHS
Diarmaid McDonald Advocacy manager, Stopaids
Blanche Jones Campaigns director, 38 Degrees
Saoirse Fitzpatrick Restless Development
Hannah Lownsbrough Sum of Us

06.02 GMT

Your article on Alan Turing (Turings triumph, 15 November, page 7) mentions Lorenz and Colossus. The Axis developed a more powerful machine, Lorenz, to replace Enigma. Although the Lorenz code was broken at Bletchley by Bill Tutte, the solution was so complicated that it took days to translate a message, by which time the message was out of date. Bletchley attempted to construct a machine to translate a Lorenz message more quickly, but failed to do so. A General Post Office engineer, Tommy Flowers,, seconded to Bletchley from the Post Office Research labs at Dollis Hill, volunteered to construct a machine but was rebuffed by those in charge at Bletchley. Flowers, on his own, then designed and had built a machine to translate Lorenz messages at the Post Office labs at Dollis Hill. Flowers paid for many of the parts out of his own money and Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, was built at Dollis Hill. When Colossus, about the size of a room, was transported to Bletchley they were amazed to find that it could translate messages in minutes rather than days. Bletchley then commissioned Flowers to build other versions.

Colossus did extraordinary valuable work in translating Axis messages until the end of the war. It was regarded as so secret that Flowers was not allowed to mention its existence, and when the war ended could not get funding to proceed further – he had no proof that he had developed anything. For his pains, Flowers was given £1,000 in (part) recompense for his outlay in building Colossus, which he divided among his team at Dollis Hill. And that was all. There is a street named Flowers Close in NW2 and a Tommy Flowers building in Tower Hamlets, but I doubt that there are many who connect these with the man who designed and built the world’s first electronic programmable computer and who helped to shorten the second world war. So why no mention of Tommy Flowers?
Michael H Abraham

• As much as Benedict Cumberbatch gives an award-winning performance as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (Reviews, G2, 14 November), again history and fact are left wanting. No mention of the genius of Tommy Flowers, who built the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus (named Christopher in the film). No mention of the Lorenz cipher, which was more complicated than Enigma. And nothing about HMS Bulldog, which by forcing U-110 to the surface and capturing the code books enabled the Enigma to be deciphered quickly. Films such as Enigma and U-571 (where the Americans capture the Enigma machine before they actually entered the war) have been made about the Bletchley Park codebreakers, but none do all these geniuses and unsung heroes justice. It’s time to put the record straight.
Alan Quinn

The 67P comet as seen from the Philae lander ‘Fantastic achievement’ … The 67P comet as seen from the Philae lander. Photograph: ESA/Getty

Landing Philae on Comet 67P from the Rosetta probe is a fantastic achievement (One giant heartstopper, 14 November). A tremendous scientific experiment based on wonderful engineering. Engineering is the turning of a dream into a reality. So please give credit where credit is due – to the engineers. The success of the science is yet to be determined, depending on what we find out about the comet. Engineering is not the handmaiden of physics any more than medicine is of biology – all are of equal importance to our futures.
Emeritus professor David Blockley, Professor Stuart Burgess, Professor Paul Weaver, University of Bristol

• Surely the comet is too small to be measured in units of Wales; Olympic-sized swimming pools or football pitches would be more appropriate.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Having noticed that the successful All Blacks team had players called Bird and Thrush (not to mention McCaw), I think England needs to get the cassowary (Birdwatch, 17 November) to take up UK nationality. This bird is able to kill a human being, and should get across the gain line. Failing that, has Angela Eagle got any relations who could play rugby?
John Richards

• I can’t be the only one to smile at the news that workers from Hungary are making us something to eat (Report, 15 November).
Andy Harris
Brough, East Yorkshire

• Like John Dobson (Letters, 15 November) a few years ago I made two batches of sloe gin using pricked and unpricked sloes. While the pricked sloes made a darker drink, the batch made from unpricked ones had the better flavour.
Dave Headey
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

• I’m not surprised Alan Pearson’s recently picked blackberries tasted “a little winey” (Letters, 17 November). In Cornwall we are warned not to eat blackberries picked after Summercourt fair (25 September) as the devil has pissed on them.
Martin Courts
Newquay, Cornwall


David Cameron is lying by omission when he says that “the NHS will remain free at the point of use” even if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) goes ahead. The fact that the services behind the point of use will have been privatised courtesy of TTIP seems to bother him not one jot.

Can we be clear about what TTIP represents? Yes, it includes legislation to ensure the inability to renationalise any privatised industry – some people may shrug their shoulders at that. Far more sinister though is the right of companies to sue governments who bring in legislation which may damage those companies’ interests.

Far-fetched? It’s happening in South America right now, where Philip Morris is threatening to sue Uruguay if the country enacts legislation which the company feels will damage its profits.

Make no mistake, Cameron, in trying to push TTIP through, is representing vested interests and not mine or yours. It is less a piece of legislation, more a full assault on democracy. Get involved, people, before it’s too late!

Alan Gent

Cheadle, Cheshire

Cameron may indeed wish to “fire rocket boosters under TTIP” (report, 17 November) but it’s looking increasingly as if the controversial EU-USA trade deal will be a damp squib.

On Monday, the French government announced that it wouldn’t be signing the deal if it included the mechanism that would allow corporations to sue member states in secret courts for introducing legislation to protect public services, the environment or labour rights. Across Europe, almost a million people have signed a petition calling for the deal to be scrapped.

While Cameron claims that the deal could enhance food and environmental standards, not everyone in his party agrees with him. Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has said he finds it “hard to imagine that the process will involve any key standards going up. On the contrary, I suspect that we will see a spiral downwards.”

The £10bn benefit that Cameron claims TTIP will bring to the economy is based on research that has been widely criticised.

A more recent peer-reviewed study from Tufts University has suggested that the deal could bring about the loss of more  than half a million jobs across Europe on top  of lower wage growth  and exports.

Polly Jones

Head of Campaigns, World Development Movement, London SW9


This university is brought to you by…

 It can only be a matter of time before the looming debt crisis in higher education leads to the financial meltdown of a number of universities (“Tuition fees: three quarters of students won’t be able to pay off their debt”, 18 November).

Fortunately, vested interests exist in every university town which depend for their very survival on the fresh inflow of thousands of new students each September. The prospect of seeing their milch cows going to the wall will compel property magnates to dig deep into their pockets to rescue the local citadel of learning.

This magnanimity is bound to involve considerable renaming and rebranding. So look out for the emergence of the Buy-To-Let Business School, the Property-R-Us Academy, and the University of Platonic Landlord Studies.

Ivor Morgan


It’s lucky men don’t have any feelings

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (17 November) comments on Julien Blanc, an American who “promises to teach men to pull, manipulate and (allegedly) ravage women at will”. She writes: “An internet petition has gathered more than 140,000 signatures calling for this ban [on allowing him into Britain]. I can’t be absolutely sure of this but I expect most of those who have signed up are females.”

In a few minutes of watching the signatures scroll by, I saw that about one third of them were male names. While two-thirds does count as “most” it’s a long way from the 95 per cent-ish her column seemed to imply she expected. It would probably have been easy for you to get the signature list and check the first 1,000 or so for a better figure, rather than going along with her assertion that “men are too scared to do anything about it”.

Oh, well. It’s not as if her misandry can hurt my feelings. As everyone knows, men don’t have feelings.

Chris Newman,

Boroughbridge,  North Yorkshire

It is a shame when respected feminists such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown come out with generalised rallying calls to men. It shows how little acknowledgment there is for the men who are actively trying to embody gender equality and about the huge movement of women and men who are bringing into existence the most level ground between the sexes in modern history.

In my world, both young men and women are appalled by and condemn the actions of these “sexual villains” such as Julien Blanc and Ched Evans.

The point of gender equality is that we rally together, not separately. We don’t need to have a male only “not in our name” parade; we need to have a human “not in our name” parade.

Henry Gibbs

London SW4

Deciding not to vote is a democratic right

The proposals by a group of MPs to address the issue of voter turnout (report, 14 November) make depressing reading. They devalue voting.  What would the chartists and suffragettes, not to mention those living in less benign regimes, make of the suggestion that the civic ritual of going to the polling station is too much for people?

The idea that the answer is to make voting physically easier has already been tried with postal voting on demand. This has led to fraud and corruption, and online voting would only worsen the debasement of democracy. People will vote if they feel inspired and perceive the options would make a big difference to their lives. How do the MPs account for the high turnout in the Scottish referendum?

As for compulsory voting, this really does look like saying we have the wrong electorate. Deciding not to vote is an expression of opinion and an important democratic right.

Rupert Fast,

Esher, Surrey

Plain words should apply to all killings

Laurence Williams (letter, 18 November) is surely right that plain words should be used to describe killings like those by the Isis jihadists: “murderers,” he suggests, or “terrorists”. What words, though, would he suggest to describe the US personnel who killed at least 40 wedding guests in a drone strike in Pakistan a couple of years ago? Are they not equally murderers or terrorists?

This is not a trivial point of nomenclature, but raises the much wider issue of the nature and status of killings organised by the state and, indeed, of warfare itself in the 21st century.

Dr Richard Carter

London SW15

Christmas comes early for some pensioners

Christmas comes but once a year, and once again the Department for Work and Pensions has today dropped £200 into my bank account to remind me to get started with the shopping.

If it really was a “winter fuel payment” they would hang on to their money until February or March. It must be the flimsiest cover story in the world for a feelgood benefit.

It’s untaxed and so worth more to higher-rate taxpayers: if you pay a marginal 40 per cent, then you would need to earn £334 to buy the £200 of Christmas gifts now being paid for you.

Mr Duncan Smith,  thank ’ee, kind sir!

Trevor Pateman


Ukip don’t want to stop NHS privatisation

Edward Thomas (letter, 15 November) thinks that the Ukip leaflet on what they would do in government shows that they are against privatisation of the NHS. It shows nothing of the kind.

I have read it, as I am sure has Ed Miliband. Nowhere in it does it say that Ukip would stop the privatisation currently being imposed by the Coalition Government.

Indeed, previous statements from Ukip suggest that they might be even more enthusiastic than the Conservatives.

David Bell

Standon, Hertfordshire

Why don’t fatal car crashes matter?

You are not alone in this, but why was the death of five people only worth a small paragraph on page 14 (17 November)?

Had this been a train crash the line would be closed for a week with massed ranks of media present and politicians calling for a public inquiry. Why don’t car crashes matter?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, North Yorkshire


Don’t get shirty with scientist

Poor Matt Taylor, being pilloried for his colourful shirt. All the guy did was display a certain lack of gravitas, which seems highly appropriate for a slow-motion near-weightless landing on a comet. Perhaps all the criticism will just bounce off him.

Hilary Sternberg

Weymouth, Dorset


Is Libby Purves right or wrong about the need for older workers and army reservists over the age of 50?

Sir, It is a forlorn hope for David Cameron to pin his defence legacy on a pledge to increase the number of reservists by 10,000 to 30,000 within four years (Nov 14). The annual wastage rate in many reserve/territorial units has been running at 30 per cent for decades. To maintain establishment strengths, every unit has had to have an annual recruitment and retention plan. Furthermore, the best recruiters are reservists themselves, not some detached bureaucracy.

A further surprise is that the army, while seeking additional recruits, jettisoned the brand, the Territorial Army, which was known and understood by the public. As many territorials have served with loyalty and distinction in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, there was little point in changing the name to the Army Reserve.

John Baron’s description of the reserve recruitment plan as a “shambles” seems to be right. Perhaps the government should review the whole undertaking rather than reinforcing failure.

In this time of uncertainty it might also be wise to remember the words of Winston Churchill: “I longed for more Regular troops with which to rebuild and expand the Army. Wars are not won by heroic militias.”

Roger Lowans
(Former TA Commanding Officer)
Bradley, N Yorks

Sir, I am surprised that the army is wasting so much money on recruiting. It has long been known that only two things bring in more recruits: rising unemployment and a new war. Thank goodness we have neither at the moment.

Tom Foulkes
Fleet, Hants

Sir, Nowhere are the services of the over-50s needed more than in the IT industry (“Every Office should have its own Dad’s Army”, Libby Purves, Nov 17). We sit in our allotment deckchairs with our newspapers, fuming about the latest IT disasters, knowing precisely what went wrong, why and how to fix them. Moreover, with the benefit of the education system of the 1960s we are eminently capable of documenting our views in plain words.

We can see, for example, how data processing activities are more and more being automated by consultancy organisations and offered, at great expense, as off-the-shelf customisable apps, only barely accessible through the internet. We can see how IT managers are selected from management school rather than from those on the shop floor with programming skills and computing acumen — the ones derided these days as nerds rather than software engineers. And we can see how computer users — games players, data-entry staff and users of those customisable database apps — mistakenly see themselves as computer experts.

David Jackson
Milton under Wychwood, Oxon

Sir, Libby Purves has seemingly missed the point about older workers. Nicholas Parsons might well give the youngsters at the Edinburgh Fringe a run for their money, but could he do it every day even if he wanted to? How many shopping trolleys could he push across a supermarket car park four or five days a week, a task many pensioners are obliged to do?

Those in the world of entertainment are so far removed from the grinding everyday world of work as to be totally irrelevant to the argument. Short stints of highly paid work which they enjoy doing bear no relation to low-paid and repetitive occupations which sap body and soul alike.

Andrew Harrison
Holmfirth, W Yorks

Sir, As always, Libby Purves talks sense in her article, arguing for the need for flexibility in the workplace when dealing with ageing. Yet we have a government which claims to have abolished default retirement ages, but which still forces all tribunal members (and others) to retire at 70, regardless of an individual’s capability and the value of their contribution.

Clive Fletcher-Wood
Redland, Bristol

Sir, With his many years of military experience, Major-General Scott (letter, Nov 17) might well be offered the Lance Corporal Jones role. But would any current banker be willing to fill the boots of Captain Mainwaring without the inducement of an eye-watering bonus?

Bryan Marshall
Enfield, Middx

A 16-mile tailback caused by a pothole on the M25 is good reason not to expand airport capacity in London

Sir, The Airport Commission (letter, Nov 14) need look no further for a reason why Gatwick should not expand given the 16-mile tailback that occurred after a large pothole appeared on the M25 (report, Nov 15). Why force even more people to endure the misery of this motorway to catch their flights? Encouraging even more passengers to travel from distant parts of the UK to Sussex cannot be sensible. More use should be made of regional airports, which are popular and create jobs where they are needed.

Alan Morriss

Pippingford Park, E Sussex

Sir, Much of the distress suffered by motorists trapped in the M25 incident could be alleviated if detachable barriers in the central reservation could be removed. Why are they not installed every mile or so?

Professor Bob Spence

Whyteleafe, Surrey

Sir, In France when there is a similar problem they divert traffic into a lane in the opposite direction, giving two lanes each way. Why can’t we do that?

Jac Martin

London SW18

My father always said he was the codebreaker sent to see Churchill because he was ‘the most easily spared’

Sir, It is a little harsh of Sir John Dermot Turing (Arts, Nov 14) to refer to the “gang of four” codebreakers at Bletchley Park as “consummate cowards” for sending their youngest member to London with the letter to Churchill asking for more resources.

As my father Stuart Milner-Barry had been born in 1906, he was hardly a put-upon youth at the time. He always said that he was sent because he was the most easily spared.

Alda Milner-Barry

London SW15

The Prince of Wales, and not New York’s Tuxedo Club, invented the dinner jacket

Sir, The DJ was not invented by New York’s Tuxedo Club in 1886 (letter, Nov 14). One of the club’s members, James Potter Brown, was introduced to it in England by its creator, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The aim was to enable him to dispense with full evening dress while at sea during the first royal visit to India in 1875. There was no relaxation of other formalities. Sweating in temperatures of 100F, the party rose to toast Queen Victoria at the end of each meal while the band played the National Anthem.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

The BBC looked in vain for a replacement for Dick Barton — until it found The Archers

Sir, Dick Barton was not replaced by The Archers (letter, Nov 17). There were two series in between: the adventures of Jackson the explorer, and a circus-based drama. Neither caught on. In the Midlands region the BBC was broadcasting an everyday story of country folk. In desperation Broadcasting House turned to this programme to fill the gap left by Dick Barton, as a temporary measure.

Professor Garel Rhys


The thinking behind sending your children to boarding school — and for having three offspring

Sir, Mike Dyer-Ball (letter, Nov 18), asked why parents bothered to have children they hardly ever saw. For years, I, my brother and sister saw our parents in Palestine and later Israel, only in the summer holidays. When I inquired about the thinking behind producing three children, a number I did not consider ideal, my mother said that at the time it was the thing to do in order to keep the Empire populated.

David Miller

Ilminster, Somerset


Matt Taylor’s ‘sexist’ T-shirt; violence on television; method in the ‘Leafgate’ madness; human rights risks; and ceremonial applause

The future's so bright: from left; Morwenna Cory, Casey Brill, Sky Dennis, Chloe Yip, Samara Villion, Yemisi Osunsami and Sarah Purdy at the RIGB's L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre

Morwenna Cory, Casey Brill, Sky Dennis, Chloe Yip, Samara Villion, Yemisi Osunsami and Sarah Purdy at the RIGB’s L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre Photo: PAUL GROVER

7:00AM GMT 18 Nov 2014


SIR – This week Matt Taylor, the Rosetta mission scientist, was criticised for wearing a T-shirt that many viewed as objectifying women. Boris Johnson was outraged at the reaction, but he should note that the bulk of the criticism came from individual scientists who were concerned that incidents of this kind may put off women and girls from entering science.

The physical sciences have a skewed gender ratio, largely because they are seen as “boys’ subjects”, but also because scientific establishments are often hostile work environments for women.

Dr Taylor appears sincere in his contrition and, more generally, has himself presented a welcome counterbalance to the unfortunate and inaccurate image of the dull, lab coat-clad scientist.

Dr Niall Deacon
St Albans, Hertfordshire

SIR – The reason for the shortage of engineers and scientists in Britain is that applied maths was replaced by pure maths at secondary level in the Seventies.

Applied maths uses maths to solve problems. It is essential to teaching and learning engineering and the sciences. Pure maths is the study of mathematical conundrums, with no practical application.

This short-sighted policy destroyed Britain’s engineering and scientific tradition and expertise and has produced two generations of mathematically illiterate adults. The skill shortages have had to be made up by migrant workers.

Applied maths should be reintroduced at secondary level and pure maths offered only at A-level and above.

Peter Wedderburn-Ogilvy
Froxfield, Hampshire

SIR – Margaret Stamper makes a valid point. In the late Sixties, when I was reading engineering at university, a lecturer expressed his opinion that most grammar school headmasters’ understanding of engineering was that each student, upon graduating, would receive a blue boiler suit and a chromium-plated oil can.

However, a far worse problem is the proliferation of people who describe themselves as engineers when they are nothing of the sort. The media and public’s exposure to this confuses people’s understanding of what it takes to become an engineer and what they actually do.

This often influences young people to avoid engineering, to the detriment of our nation.

John Farquhar
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

SIR – My brother, a professor of engineering, was attending an EU conference. His German counterpart, who was introduced as “Herr Doktor Professor”, asked him how his students referred to him. My brother’s reply was: “Bob.”

Claire McCombie
Woodbridge, Suffolk

Tackling abuse in sport

SIR – It is unfortunate to see discrimination appearing in the arena of sports again, after homophobic abuse was hurled at referee Nigel Owens during the England v New Zealand rugby match at Twickenham.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has an obligation to ensure that any such behaviour is swiftly dealt with. A person fearful of being subjected to abuse cannot enjoy equal opportunities, since it puts them off wanting to participate in the game. The RFU must send a clear message that abuse will not be tolerated at any level.

Michael Goitein
London EC2

Television violence

Jamie Dornan as killer Paul Spector in ‘The Fall’

SIR – Michael Deacon’s defence of the BBC drama The Fall justifies the portrayal of sexual violence towards women by saying that it happens in today’s society, so it is acceptable to show it.

Dramas are for entertainment; they are not documentaries. We might also question to what extent the graphic depiction of these crimes stimulates and encourages those with the potential to commit them.

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

Women’s right to choose

SIR – Why is it that some women cannot wait to attack other women over their child care decisions?

The issues are not simple. I do admire those women who stay at home with their children, but I would probably have had a breakdown. Neither path is easy, but as my wise health visitor said to me, “It is good that you know yourself”. We need to stop vilifying each other and work towards a society that can truly offer women a choice.

Jacky Maggs
Chelmsford, Essex

Thanking you kindly

SIR – Having been in the hospitality industry all of my working life, I can confirm that Bernard Powell is indeed in the minority in thanking hotel staff he had never seen.

That said, last week I received a letter from a client of my hotel, thanking “those we never see in the kitchen and those who make our beds”. Perhaps he had read Mr Powell’s letter?

Eric Marsh
Hathersage, Derbyshire

There is method in the ‘Leafgate’ madness

Pruning upper branches helps to maintain trees at a certain height (Photo: Alamy)

SIR – Horticulture is being portrayed as both unskilled and frivolous as regards the pollarding of lime trees in New Palace Yard.

This is a necessary part of the trees’ maintenance in order to keep their shape and size. As a professional horticulturist it saddens me to see such a negative response to the craft.

Andrew Hellman
Tollesbury, Essex

SIR – While I have every sympathy for Annabel Honeybun, the poor “Westminster stripper” employed to remove the leaves, I’m not surprised if the choice of planting isn’t to everyone’s taste.

An avenue of mature lime trees may have a sonorous effect, but a pleached lime allée has long been regarded as a labour-intensive foreign import. Popularised in this country by Sir Walter Scott, it’s a rather grand garden feature that has gone in and out of fashion ever since.

Sadly, there’s no sign of oak outside the House of Commons. Keats’s “green-robed senators” have been relegated back to the forest, it seems.

Carol Lofthouse
London W4

Prison assaults

SIR – Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, promises longer sentences for those who are involved in assaults while in custody.

Surely this will only add to the problem of overcrowding. A far better approach would be to question why such violence occurs. It could be due to pure frustration at the long hours prisoners are locked up, or because courses are continually cut.

Prisoners should have the chance to learn new skills so that they leave with some sense of purpose. Lengthy confinement in a small space only results in boredom and resentment.

G H Crampton
Kingsbridge, Devon

Human rights risks

SIR – Failure to manage human rights issues in complex supply chains could pose significant risks to investors.

Consequently, we call on the Government to ensure that the Modern Slavery Bill, which is being debated this week, makes certain requirements of those who manage supply chains. They must provide evidence of a process for identifying human rights risks, highlight which parties have been involved in this assessment, and detail the actions taken to address those risks, alongside appropriate sanctions. Listed companies should consider the issue as part of their annual reports to shareholders.

Philip Howell
Chief Executive, Rathbone Brothers PLC

Colin Melvin
CEO, Hermes

Abigail Herron
Head of Responsible Investment Engagement, Aviva Investors

Katherine Garrett-Cox
CEO, Alliance Trust

Helen Cadbury
Chair, The Barrow Cadbury Trust

Lauren Compere
Managing Director, Boston Common Asset Management

Helena Viñes Fiesta
Head of Sustainability Research, BNP Paribas

Bennett Freeman
Senior VP for Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments

Julie Tanner
Assistant Director of Socially Responsible Investing, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc

Michael Quicke
Chief Executive, CCLA Investment Management

James Bevan
Chief Investment Officer, CBF Church of England Funds

Andrew Brown
Chief Executive, Church Commissioners for England

Bernadette Kenny
Chief Executive, Church of England Pensions Board

Neville White
Head of SRI Policy & Research, Ecclesiastical Investment Management

Anthony Marsden
Head of Governance & Responsible Investment, Henderson Global Investors

Nick Perks
Trust Secretary, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Sandra Carlisle
Head of Responsible Investment, Newton Investment Management

David Adkins
Chief Investment Officer, The Pensions Trust

Niall O’Shea
Head of Responsible Investing, Royal London Asset Management

Seb Beloe
Partner and Head of Sustainability Research, WHEB Asset Management

Stephen Linder
Secretary, Worcester Diocesan Investment and Glebe Committee

Young linguists

A French lesson at Two Waters primary school in Hemel Hempstead

SIR – I could not disagree more profoundly with Professor Krashen’s letter on language learning among older children and adults.

The greatest weight of evidence suggests that if children do not acquire a language in their early years, it is much more difficult to do so later on. The Department for Education has recently added credence to this by reducing the age for learning a foreign language in the national curriculum to seven (Key Stage 2). My concern is that even this is too late.

Unfortunately the current policy is already under threat, due to a lack of sufficiently well qualified language teachers at Key Stage 2.

Dr Carol Hayes
Staffordshire University

The Government must sort out its aid priorities

SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with William Pender that enshrining overseas aid in law is ludicrous. However, I disagree equally with his contention that such aid ought to be provided only when “it is in Britain’s vital interest”.

While many estimable British charities do a superb job across the globe, there are some situations – the latest being the dreadful Ebola crisis – where government resources are essential. I am proud that our government has sent experts from the British military to assist and I do not begrudge a penny of the taxpayers’ money involved. Indeed, I would be happy to see far more spent in this area.

What I do not want is any of my tax going in “aid” to countries whose governments spend billions on nuclear weapons and space programmes; and I certainly do not want a fixed percentage of Britain’s GDP spent on overseas aid purely for the sake of attaining an arbitrary target.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

SIR – Mr Pender does not go far enough.Instead of sending funds overseas, they should be made available to the industrial and commercial markets in Britain to construct and supply that which is needed by recipient countries, such as hospitals, housing, water treatment and roads.

Thus British workers, British taxpayers and the overseas countries will all be satisfied and the problems of the current system reduced considerably.

Howard Rigg
Ponteland, Northumberland


SIR – Our health service is struggling, there’s a shortage of housing, the roads are congested, the electricity supply is just about coping, schools are full to bursting; and Greencore wants to import 300 people to make sandwiches.

Neil Matthews
Portishead, Somerset

The final curtain

SIR – I sympathise with Jon Petcher in his dislike of inappropriate clapping.

I recently attended a cremation service when, after the curtain had been drawn and Sinatra had entertained the assembled, there was an outburst of applause. I’m not sure whether it was for Ol’ Blue Eyes or in the hope that the recently departed would oblige with an encore. The curtain remained closed.

Hugh Batkin
Whixall, Shropshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Your front-page report on November 17th quotes Enda Kenny as saying the protests are “not about water”. It has finally dawned on him. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, a leading suffragette, was once arrested for throwing rocks at the windows of Dublin Castle. I wonder if this great lady were alive today, would she too be labelled a “thug” or a “sinister element”? – Yours, etc,


Listowel, Co Kerry.

Sir, – I understand people’s anger with how outrageous the water charges are, but realistically, if the Government doesn’t tax our water, it will tax something else. The Government will make money from any taxable excuse it can find. If the water protests succeed, this will only lead to the Government imposing an identical amount of taxes on something else or an increased percentage on an already existing tax.

Although I agree with the other hundreds of thousands of anti-water activists, I would hate to witness an unnecessary outbreak of violence from both the Garda­and protesters due to a tax that inevitably will be imposed on the population, regardless of where it is targeted. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The media storm caused by events in Jobstown and Coolock, and the now daily Government vilification of the parties and individuals involved in any public demonstrations, only serve to show how tame our public response has been to the incessant austerity programme since 2009.

As our Greek brethren have showed, sometimes physical public resistance gets results. Their social and political opposition to the troika’s privatisation drive, which operated at a different level to our water balloons and eggs, has been so fierce that the Greek government has already had to scale back its projected austerity proceeds from €50 billion by 2015 to a “mere” €11 billion by 2016.

While this doesn’t constitute a victory for their anti-austerity alliance, it does reveal the hostile social and political terrain there on which the troika and the Greek government have had to navigate.

In recent months, the grassroots campaign in Greece against the privatisation of the public water utilities, spearheaded by veteran activists from the 2011 Movement of the Squares, has also made major strides in rousing public opinion.

In late May, the movement was aided by a favourable court ruling that blocked the privatisation of the Athens water utility. This ruling marks the first significant victory in a collective public pushback that may yet set a precedent and cause the EU/IMF-enforced privatisation drive to come undone at the seams.

Too little, too late perhaps for us to undo our austerity measures. But the courage shown by the Greeks in the face of a more muscular government than ours shows what can be done. We must stick to our campaigns, keep them within the law, and keep the pressure incessant on our elected representatives and Government parties. – Yours, etc,


Midleton, Co Cork.

Sir, – The recent water protests have been described by some politicians as acts of “bullying and intimidation”. Enda Kenny has said that what happened to Joan Burton “almost amounted to kidnapping” (“Treatment of Tánaiste was effectively ‘kidnapping’, says Kenny”, November 17th).

When Mr Kenny states that what happened to Joan Burton “almost amounted to kidnapping”, I do wonder if he thinks that implementing Fianna Fáil policies almost amounts to standing up to the bond holders, or if he thinks that a flat rate water tax without a corresponding decrease in general taxation to reflect the removal of water services from the central budget almost amounts to a usage-based charge.

Maybe he also believes that the way he runs the country through the Economic Management Council almost amounts to a democracy?

The politicians have ignored the will of the people for so long, they are in shock when the people say “enough is enough”.

These protests have been a long time coming and are the direct result of very bad political leadership for many, many years. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I wonder if a large march will make any difference? I cannot help thinking back to the marches in London when over one million citizens protested the invasion of Iraq – they had no effect. However, if the organisers of the water charges protest on December 10th got each marcher to sign a pledge promising to vote in the next general election and not to vote for either Coalition party, then we would be speaking the language politicians understand. Just a thought. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The water protesters in Tallaght threw a water balloon at the Tánaiste. The Government responded by throwing the media at the water protesters. Game over. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The Government seems surprised at the level of protesting at the water charges. I am extremely surprised that it has not happened sooner. – Yours, etc,


Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

Sir, – With Paul Murphy TD’s apparent blindness to Tánaiste Joan Burton being subjected to loutish behaviour in the guise of legitimate condemnation of water charges, perhaps it is time some of our public representatives were ushered into Leinster House and given some firm lessons in how Mahatma Gandhi defined peaceful protest. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir – Many international workers in the self-proclaimed “Silicon Valley of Europe” will be stunned that they are forced to join archaic and chaotic queues outside the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Burgh Quay in Dublin (“Our broken immigration system”, Editorial, November 18th).

The scenes belong to a difference era. It is time the Government used new technology and the knowledge base it is so fond of boasting about to introduce a modern, clear and fair immigration system.

It is clear from your editorial and the excellent coverage by your correspondent Carl O’Brien (“A day in the life at the State’s immigration offices”, November 17th) that the policy of forcing the equivalent of the population of Cork city through a single public office has failed. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The scenes outside the Garda National Immigration Bureau are just one symptom of the failure of successive Governments to honour commitments to bring forward comprehensive immigration legislation.

It is now over a decade since the first consultation took place on an Immigration Residency and Protection Bill; this has been followed by drafts and redrafts but no actual reforms. The Bill remains off the current Government’s list of promised legislation.

Given that there is little possibility of legal measures before the next election, the Immigrant Council of Ireland is attempting to secure changes which do not require laws.

We would like to see the use of new technology to introduce online processes for routine applications and extra resources for frontline staff at Burgh Quay to ease the queues immediately, and perhaps learning from the experiences of the reform of the Passport Office.

There are measures too which could make the system easier to navigate, such as including the introduction of clear rules and guidelines, where often there are none. Such a move would not only benefit applicants but also officials who are caught in a system that is overdependent on discretion.

It remains unacceptable that clients of the immigration system do not enjoy the benefits of the protection of the Office of the Ombudsman. We would like to see this extended or the some other independent appeals mechanism for those whose applications have been rejected.

Our proposals make sense for those on both sides of the counter at Burgh Quay. We continue to work with politicians from all sides to try and ensure the queues will quickly be confined to history. – Yours, etc,


Integration and Support

Service Manager,

Immigrant Council

of Ireland,

Andrew Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I read the comments of Dr James Reilly in relation to a tax credit scheme for childcare with absolute dismay (“Government officials rule out tax relief for childcare”, November 17th, 2014).

Dr Reilly and his departmental officials contend that any tax credit scheme for childcare may unfairly discriminate against stay-at-home mothers. Dr Reilly and his officials appear to live in a parallel universe where working parents do not face burdens and discrimination in relation to childcare costs. I am a working mother of one. I have a second child on the way. A full 39 per cent of my income goes to cover childcare costs. I have made the difficult decision to be a mother and work to progress my career. For this decision I am financially penalised and discriminated against. I would not face such discrimination if I stayed at home, which, incidentally, I cannot afford to do.

Can Dr Reilly and his officials please look at how they can tackle existing discrimination against working parents so that all parents face a genuine choice as to whether or not to work? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Carl O’Brien writes that Minister for Children Dr James Reilly is not prepared to introduce tax breaks for parents in relation to the cost of childcare, ruling it out as a measure which seems to favour parents at work over parents at home.

So what is the Minister and his fellow Ministers in Government ruling in to make quality childcare accessible and affordable in Ireland?

Parents can’t pay any more given that they are currently paying up to 35 per cent of their net income if they have two children in centre-based services, in comparison to their European counterparts who are paying on average 10-12 per cent. The solution that is staring this Government as well as previous governments and future governments in the face is real investment in childcare. We can’t have these great expectations for quality, affordable and accessible childcare without the investment to make it happen. According to the OECD, Ireland invests only 0.2 per cent of GDP annually in early childhood education services (when primary schools are excluded) compared to the OECD average of 0.7 per cent.

We know that quality childcare is worth the investment, but we are not willing to make the investment and Ireland is still bottom of the European league table for investing in the provision of early childhood education.

There is huge pressure on early childhood education services to provide a quality service and to meet strict standards, as it should be. But the investment needed is just not there and we must wake up and realise that only quality counts for children in their earliest years, and quality costs. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Hainault House,

Belgard Square South,


Dublin 24.

A chara, – James O’Reilly (November 17th) highlights the increasing casualisation of the teaching profession. While it is a common assumption that all teachers are in full-time, permanent, pensionable employment, the reality is quite different. OECD studies show that just 73 per cent of Irish second level teachers are in permanent positions (compared to 96 per cent in Denmark and 90 per cent in Norway). This is one of the lowest levels in Europe. The remaining 27 per cent survive on temporary contracts and are often scraping by on part-time hours. Younger teachers such as Mr O’Reilly are in an even more difficult position. OECD statistics show that the majority (52 per cent) of secondary teachers under 30 years of age are on non-permanent contracts of a year or less. They are being offered insecure part-time contracts rather than a dedicated career and risk becoming a highly qualified spailpín class. Far from a “job for life”, these teachers have no guarantee that their job will even exist in the next school year. The implications for teaching and learning in our classrooms are obvious. Schools will have to deal with a high turnover of teachers and the difficulties with continuity that this will inevitably cause. Highly qualified teachers will take their abilities elsewhere and new graduates will be less likely to consider teaching as a career. In this context, Mr O’Reilly’s call for the small number of retired teachers still in the system as substitutes to gracefully step aside and enjoy their retirements is a valid one.

Let a new generation of teachers gain the skills, experience and employment that they so badly need. – Is mise,



Killarney, Co Kerry.

Sir, – The culture of entitlement in this country goes from bad to worse. The “Right to Water Campaign” is correct – we are indeed entitled to water but if we want clean, treated water in our taps, someone has to pay for it. Our temperate climate ensures that there are streams and rivers in abundance into which they can dip their buckets if it’s “free water” they’re after. – Yours, etc,



Co Tipperary.

Sir, – I congratulate the Government on their wise decision to simplify water charges by introducing a fixed payment per head, unrelated to the volume of water used.

To better communicate the radical nature of this policy change, perhaps a snappy new name for the charge is in order. Might I suggest “poll tax”? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – The likely new Irish water charges feel like one of those financial packages one is regularly warned about, designed to suck people in with a low entry charge but which are then subsequently increased once the person is hooked.

The fact remains that for Irish Water to pay its way, charges need to be closer to €500 per year and this is presumably where charges will go with time.

The real issue with Irish Water is that it has been set up with too high a cost base because politicians felt it was easier to hoodwink the ordinary person rather than face up to vested interests by ensuring Irish Water was efficient with a break-even point as low as possible.

In addition, Phil Hogan’s triumphant ride into the sunset on the back of a job supposedly well done is typical of the lack of accountability in our political classes. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I seem to be living in a confused country. There is trouble on the streets over the water tax. Yet the TV tax is now exactly the same amount of money and if you complain about that people think you’re a little odd.

Plus there’s silence from both right and left on the merit of a State-owned, hugely subsidized and inefficient broadcaster charging people €160 for a service that’s far less important to life and health.

Whether you agree with the water tax or not, it’s hard to disagree that you’ll get a lot more value from the water tax than you do from the Tubridy-Finucane tax. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – After painstakingly explaining to us that fewer than 1 per cent of babies are born with ambiguous sexual identities, Ralph Hurley O’Dwyer (November 17th) then makes the extraordinary statement that “nature doesn’t draw a line between male and female”. Is 99 per cent clearly identifiable male or female children not clear enough for him? How too does he cope with the fact that those babies (all of them) are products of the contributions of genetic material from identifiably male and female persons?– Yours, etc,



Sir,– Patrick Treacy ( November 5th) used the word “truth”, in relation to marriage, 13 times. If “truth demands” that same-sex couples are to choose a different word and different concept to “marriage”, should couples who choose not to have children, or couples who do not marry for love, or couples who do not share a bed, also choose an alternative word? Perhaps an alternative “truth” is that there are as many marriages as there are couples. Why should one such marriage not be same-sex? – Yours, etc,


Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Irish Independent:

So if the thing is falling apart, why not consider a National Government? Preceded by the Members of Dail and Seanad meeting as a consultative Convention for a maximum of a fortnight? With a fixed deadline? All but the most essential ‘normal’ business suspended? Party blunderbusses outside door?

Such a plan will never happen. Or not until it is too late. Because it would break all the most fundamental and unalterable rules of conventional politics. The most important of which is: That rule which says that you do not deal with a crisis – however predictable – until the water is actually sloshing around the kitchen floor.

It may be that the current Government may come up with an interim plan for water which kicks that can down the road. Even as far as the election.

Another plan would have those members of the Government who see themselves participating in politics (and even governance) in the rest of this decade and beyond, arranging a sacrificial retirement junket for Enda and Joan. Well before Christmas.

But it may well be, for better or worse, that public opinion (and common-sense evaluation) have already gone beyond the point of no return. British Prime Minister David Cameron is hammering the economic doom-and-gloom button. But he is not alone. Either in Europe. Or worldwide. What ‘growth’? Many of our own commentators have expressed their unease at the Government’s determination to prematurely sign the death cert for ‘austerity’. Not a popular stance. Certainly not ‘populist’. But maybe the bitter truth.

We have had an electorally-slanted gambler’s budget. What if the grand national recovery strategy goes pear-shaped? How would any Government handle such a situation – politically?

When former Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore (with a patriotism almost heroic) fell on his sword last May, he offered his heiress presumptive the opportunity to re-write the script for Labour. Nothing too ideological to frighten the old Blueshirts. Just a nuanced gesture towards the possibility that we live in a different world. A world in which there have to be global and European solutions. In which the lead-lined parish pump is not enough.

Maybe – as sometimes happens with toxic addictions – our political culture and those who sail in its decaying hulk have got to hit bottom before they can recover. But as the late great Spike Milligan, or some such iconic figure, may have said about his own mortality, I do not want to be there when it happens.

Over to you, O youth of Ireland! Make my last days happy days!

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry


Irish Water

The hysteria over water charges is a sight to behold, with no attempt to examine how damaging the effects of giving in to this hysteria are.

The reality is that in November 2010 this country needed an €80bn bailout. That was a result of the country going bust due to the decisions of a small number of its most powerful citizens.

The scale of the problem thus created is highlighted by the fact that, as a consequence, this country needed to reduce its deficit from 32pc of national income to 3pc by 2014. Most of that plan has been implemented. The economy is growing. There are high levels of foreign investment.

Yet there is a group of people who want to use the water charges issue to reverse all that. They want to default on the bail-out. They want to leave the EU and they want to get rid of multinational investment.

The problem is aggravated by much of the Irish media aiding and abetting the hysteria over water charges.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

I seem to be living in a confused country. There is – almost literally – war on the streets over the water tax. Yet the TV tax is now exactly the same amount of money and if you complain about that people think you’re a little odd. Plus there’s silence from both right and left on the merit of a state-owned, hugely subsidized and inefficient broadcaster charging people €160 for a service that’s far less important to life and health.

Whether you agree with the water tax or not, it’s hard to disagree that you’ll get a lot more value from the water tax than you do from the Tubridy-Finucane tax.

Hugh Sheehy, Sandymount, Dublin 4


Please, Roy, don’t go!

Don’t go, Roy.

May I – through your newspaper – appeal to Roy Keane not to leave Aston Villa before the end of the season. I have a nice bet to win a substantial five-figure sum that Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich (currently flying high) will win the Championship and Roy’s Aston Villa (inevitably hurtling towards the bottom of the Premier League) will be relegated.

My plea is because in 2008/09 I had a similar double (25/1) that Mick’s Wolves would win the Championship and Roy’s Sunderland would be relegated. Wolves duly won, and Sunderland languished at the bottom when Roy resigned. The little-known Ricky Sbragia took over, galvanised the Black Cats for a few matches and helped them to safety.

For God sake don’t leave again, Roy, or I’ll not get over it.

Brian Morris, Blackrock, Co Louth


Laws must be obeyed by all

“…what did she expect? Garlands, red carpets and flowers?” So said Ruth Coppinger, an ELECTED representative in response to the detaining for two hours of the deputy leader of this country, Tanaiste Joan Burton. I’m no supporter of Ms Burton or her acquiescent Labour Party, but I think any elected representative has to be subject to the law of the land. As far as I know, detaining someone against their will is a criminal offence.We seriously are in new territory where people can think they can take the law into their own hands and still claim moral righteousness is on their side.

There are plenty of laws – water charges being one of them – I don’t agree with, but my only options are to obey them or leave Dodge toute suite. The behaviour in Tallaght was a downright disgrace, pure and simple.

Frank Buckley, Tullamore, Co Offaly


Martin’s Labour leanings

We got an insight – if we needed it – into the mindset of Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin on the Saturday Night show with Brendan O’Connor.

He said he was slow to speak out about what was wrong in the Fianna Fail government when in power. He acknowledged that the tax cut was an issue he should have spoken out on; this for me was incredible – no mention that expenditure had got out of control, with Micheal the big spender in those years.

Expenditure had, of course, gone totally out of control in that period, ending with the special increases for all senior civil servants and politicians. Mr Martin and the establishment paid themselves some of the best salaries in the world. Mr Martin was Minister of the largest-spending departments in those years – ie health and education.

He should join the Labour Party because his philosophy is similar to that party – ie represent the interests of the public sector before all else and favour raising taxes before cutting expenditure.

John Murphy, Glasnevin, Dublin 9


A red letter day

Bravo, Mr Editor!

Monday’s letters page is back. A good decision. A good day’s work.

So, on behalf of myself and all my fellow contributors to the page – and all your readers – a warm and genuine heartfelt thank you!

Brian Mc Devitt, Glenties, Co Donegal

Irish Independent


November 18, 2014

18 November 2014 Sharland

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and Sharland comes to call,

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Jack Chalker – obituary

Jack Chalker was an artist whose sketches and watercolours recorded life as a prisoner of war on the ‘Death Railway’

Jack Chalker

Jack Chalker Photo: JAY WILLIAMS

6:19PM GMT 17 Nov 2014


Jack Chalker, who has died aged 96, was a British artist who drew and painted the atrocities he witnessed as a prisoner of war on the Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the “Death Railway”.

Made famous by Pierre Boulle’s book (and David Lean’s film) The Bridge on the River Kwai, the railway is now a byword for war crimes. More than 12,000 Allied prisoners perished during its construction, along with at least 90,000 Asian labourers. “The sad thing is that here is a race, the Japanese, with an enormous sense of beauty,” said Chalker, “and yet suddenly there was this.”

The construction of a 258-mile railway line between Bangkok in Thailand to Rangoon in Burma during 1943 was intended to provide a supply route for Japanese forces in Burma. Chalker, a bombardier who had been captured at Singapore, worked on a stretch of the line at Kanchanaburi Province in the west of Thailand. His sketches and watercolours, along with the works of his fellow PoW artists, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old and Ronald Searle, now form a valuable record of the brutality experienced by the men who were made to work for the Japanese forces, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day.

In later life Chalker described the conditions on the railway as “singularly horrific”. Torture, malnutrition, illness and execution were daily perils. “If you weren’t working hard enough they would make you stand and hold a stone above your head,” recalled Chalker. “You picked it up, which was better than collapsing because then they kicked you all over the place.”

That image – of a sick, beleaguered man holding a boulder aloft – is one of many that he captured on paper. Chalker managed to produce an exceptional body of work, numbering over 100 drawings, sketches and paintings, detailing the hellish circumstances of his captivity between 1942 and 1945.

On his capture, Chalker hid a few watercolour paints and pencils in a secret compartment in his haversack. For canvases, he stole paper from his captors and used the pre-printed postcards that prisoners were given to send home. His works provide a gallery of horrors: emaciated prisoners at the dysentery latrines; cholera tents; a man having his hands hammered for stealing food; a spoon used as a surgical device to extract maggots from a wound. In one, the celebrated Australian surgeon Colonel Edward “Weary” Dunlop carries out an amputation. In addition to Chalker’s unflinching images he kept microscopic diary notes.

He stashed the drawings and paintings in hut roofs and bamboo polls, which he then buried, and even in the artificial limb of a prisoner. Only once did he get caught.

Two working men, Konyu River camp by Jack Chalker (REX FEATURES)

“A guard found me hiding some stuff and I got beaten up,” Chalker recalled years later. “The guard tore one drawing up in front of me, but when I came back later I found the pieces under a rice sack. All the others had been destroyed, but this one had survived. It is a symbol of the whole thing.”

Jack Bridger Chalker was born on October 10 1918 in London. His father, Alfred, was a stationmaster who had been appointed MBE for dispersing troops during the First World War. Jack won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art but found his studies interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was posted in February 1942 to Singapore, where he was captured by the Japanese. He spent time in Changi Prison and two labour camps before being sent to work on the Burma-Siam Railway, arriving at a camp on the Konyu River in Thailand after a five-day train journey.

During his time on the railway his camp commandant learnt of Chalker’s artistic talent and made him produce watercolour postcards to send back to his family in Japan. “I was ordered to produce 20 paintings a day under threat of being beaten up and incarcerated unless they were forthcoming, and this I did for a few wearisome weeks,” he recalled. In contrast to the devastation shown in much of his work, other drawings capture the beauty of the local plants and flowers.

‘From the artist’s bed, Dysentery hut, Chungkai Base hospital camp’ by Jack Chalker (REX)

His art helped him to retain a semblance of humanity . “I was glad to have something to do, and it was such a privilege to be with so many interesting, wonderful people,” said Chalker. “There was one man, who was absolutely skeletal, a senior lecturer in mathematics at university, and he really loved mathematics and he talked quietly about maths and what a lovely subject it was and he made me feel that calculus must be wonderful. And then he suddenly died one afternoon.”

On Chalker’s release in 1945 he joined the Australian Army HQ in Bangkok as a war artist; some of his work was used in evidence at the Tokyo war trials. On his return to England he resumed his studies, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1951.

For more than a decade after his repatriation he could not sleep properly. Nor could he look at his drawings and paintings: it would take 40 years for him to take his works out of the box in which they were stored.

In 1950, after teaching History of Art at Cheltenham Ladies’ College he became principal of Falmouth College of Art and, in 1957, principal of West of England College of Art, where he remained until his retirement in the mid-1980s.

He also worked as a medical illustrator and was elected a fellow of the Society of Medical Artists of Great Britain. In retirement, he made anatomical models for the medical firm Limbs and Things (he was “famous for his bowel”) and, having settled at Bleadney in Somerset, gave regular talks about his wartime experiences.

Chalker wrote two books: Burma Railway Artist (1994) and Burma Railway: Images of War (2007). The latter was published in Britain and Japan.

Col Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, Australian Army Doctor, in the Operating Theatre at the Chungkai Hospital Camp by Jack Chalker (UPPA/PHOTOSHOT)

In recent years he was sought out by the Japanese media keen to interview him as part of the process of reparation. A BBC Four documentary, Building Burma’s Death Railway: Moving Half the Mountain, screened earlier this year, drew heavily on Chalker’s stark images to illustrate prisoners’ stories.

He was elected a fellow of the Society of Medical Artists of Great Britain and awarded an honorary degree by the University of the West of England.

In 2002 Chalker, then 83, auctioned a collection of approximately 100 of his wartime works at Bonhams in London. “I feel reluctant and in a way guilty about doing this, but it will help us out,” he said.

Jack Chalker in his studio

Bidders competed fiercely and many were later donated by a buyer to the Australian War Memorial, including Two working men, Konyu River camp, a pen, brush and ink work on paper which 70 years ago had been ripped up by a Japanese guard.

Jack Chalker married, first, during the war, Anne Maude Dixon; the marriage was later dissolved. He married, secondly, during the 1950s, Jill; that marriage was also later dissolved. He married, thirdly, Helene (née Merrett-Stock), who survives him with a son of his first marriage and a son and daughter of his second marriage.

Jack Chalker, born October 10 1918, died November 15 2014


Sonia Rolt Sonia Rolt working on the Grand Union Canal in the run-up to the 1945 general election

In addition to her work as a conservationist, for many years Sonia Rolt played an active part in the organisation of the Cheltenham literature festival, notably in the early 1960s, when its future was far from assured. In the late 80s and early 90s, Sonia’s lively and cheerful presence was a memorable feature of meetings. And as programme director in 1991 I was grateful for her unwavering encouragement and support.

Behind The Scenes At Heathrow's Terminal 5 Passengers walk to passport control at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Heathrow has a proven record of delivering privately funded major infrastructure like Terminal 5 and Terminal 2 on time and on budget, and we are confident of delivering against our costing (Heathrow and Gatwick are underestimating cost of expansion, says Airports Commission, 12 November). The Airports Commission has simply increased the risk allowance and added a 20% “optimism bias” to all submissions for airport expansion. Heathrow’s runways have been full for 10 years. The commission has confirmed that if we expand, then passenger ticket prices will go down. Continue to constrain it and they will go up. That’s simple supply and demand economics.

The real prize for the UK is up to £211bn of economic growth and 180,000 jobs that would come as a result of expanding Heathrow. This is a much better future for Britain than Gatwick offers, because Heathrow is the only airport that can sustain long-haul flights to the fastest-growing economies, such as China. Gatwick can’t do this – Air China tried at Gatwick, but couldn’t make it work. Heathrow handles 26% of the UK’s exports today and expansion will help Britain double its exports. Gatwick doesn’t do cargo. Finally, Heathrow is the only airport that can serve the whole of Britain, rather than just London and the south-east, reconnecting regions such as Inverness, Humberside and Newquay to global markets. Only Heathrow can help Britain win the race for growth. If we are ambitious for our country, we should back Heathrow expansion.
John Holland-Kaye
Chief executive, Heathrow Airport

• I do not expect the Guardian to act as yet another PR arm of Britain’s most aggressive, devious and unpleasant business (Concorde captain’s split runway plan to end Heathrow impasse, 14 November). Those of us who suffer the noise and air pollution generated by Heathrow want fewer not more aircraft screaming over our homes, and preferably none. The Japanese have built two successful offshore airports. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the British to do something similar which, provided the construction is done by British companies employing British workers, could be done at zero cost to the UK economy?
Robert Walls
Camberley, Surrey

England v New Zealand, Britain - 8 Nov 2014 An England flag amid the crowd at the England v New Zealand rugby match, Twickenham, 8 November 2014. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/JMP/REX

I am grateful to the Guardian for publishing my letter (Shamed by bigoted England rugby fans, 11 November), which rang bells across the media – all the way to the New Zealand Herald. The incident I reported was not an isolated one. A correspondent from a TV sports channel told me that the letter had caught his interest particularly because he had witnessed something similar at Twickenham but had failed to report it. Testimony to the fact that although a lone voice can be a waste of breath, you won’t know it’s wasted unless you shout.

The Rugby Football Union has been in touch and assured me it is pursuing my report on the incident. The RFU is committed in principle to eliminating homophobic and racial abuse from matches. However, if national stadiums are not to be used as safe havens for bigots and binge drinkers, a determined strategy is needed to stamp it out. If it doesn’t already have one, perhaps the RFU could appoint an official whose sole responsibility is to address discipline off the field of play? And at a practical level, it should be easy to advertise a memorable text number on the big screens, at notices around the ground and in the programme, which spectators can use to attract the attention of stewards when incidents are taking place. It is otherwise difficult, on a day when you have paid and travelled a long way to enjoy yourself, to start an altercation with abusive people sitting nearby.

I hope very much that the media, which have pursued this matter so brilliantly, will continue to be vigilant, checking that firm action is indeed being taken by the RFU and supporting that action when it occurs. At a selfish level, I would like my next 14 Twickenham experiences to be as great as the 14 I enjoyed before last Saturday week’s.
Keith Wilson

• Congratulations to the Rugby Ref who is out as gay. Nigel Owens you have made my day – and the Guardian too (Report, 14 November).
George Montague

The City of London at sunset The City of London at sunset. Photograph: Vladimir Zakharov/Getty Images/Moment Open

Six years after the 2008 financial crash, we are finally recognising that the banking industry is “rotten to the core” (Editorial, 13 November). Fines and settlement fees of over £25bn in the UK and $100bn in the US can no longer be blamed on lone rogue traders or inadequate regulation. Banking has become synonymous with short-term profiteering to line the pockets of asset strippers, hedge fund gamblers and tax avoiders, at the expense of individual and business customers. Contrast this with India’s Tata Group, which in the same six years bought the loss-making Land Rover and by investing £4bn, including the recently opened Wolverhampton engine plant, has created a profitable company supporting 190,000 British jobs. UK banks have demonstrated that they have little interest in long-term investment in productive enterprise. A radical alternative banking system, such as Labour’s proposed British Investment Bank, with devolved powers for local and regional investment decisions, is required.
Martin Willis
Malvern, Worcestershire

• As an ordinary bank customer reading the editorial and the lead story in the financial pages (Barclays may face massive new penalty, 13 November), it is obvious that the three monkeys – Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil – have long been residents at the Financial Conduct Authority. The ability to still regard the actions of the investment banking community as only liable for fines, which we, as the simple customer, will probably end up paying in higher charges, is deplorable. If looked at from an ethical standpoint, perhaps they should be considered as criminal. If the FCA only considers this as corruption, there must be many of us, in the wider community, who regard this as more akin to deception and fraud. My moral code tells me that if I were to do things such as these, then I would expect to treated as a criminal. But then perhaps I am being simplistic and perhaps investment bankers really are the masters of the universe, and have to be treated as such.
Andrew Searle
Lavenham, Suffolk

• Although banks are regularly fined for their criminal activities we allow them a major role in our governance. They create 97% of the nation’s money through making loans, mostly in ways that inflate property values and underpin financial services. Only 10% goes to productive business. Even Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, has said, “Why should we let such a social creation [money] be handed over to profit-seeking private enterprises?
James Bruges

• While fining banks for the liability due to improper manipulation of market rates can be seen as a penalty, I wonder if a warning that further unacceptable organisational financial fraud could lead to the removing of banking licences would show teeth/unacceptable behaviour. Banks may then be more inclined to further look at HR issues – such as remuneration, further reducing incentives to cheat, behavioural interviewing and corporate social responsibility – as they are vicariously liable for the staff they hire.
Colin Rodden
Olney, Buckinghamshire

• Is there no end in sight to the litany of corrupt culture in banks? Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Martin Wheatley tells us that, “A lot of it is not rocket science.” He suggests that firms need to look at whether employees in dealing rooms are using mobile phones. They undoubtedly are.

What the regulators need to know is how many regulation-compliant registered phones there are in each firm, how that number compares with the number of traders and what amount of phone traffic is going through those mobiles or handsets, as against the volumes traded. All this is readily traceable through telephony. If the recorded trades and conversations fall short of expectations, would it be a surprise to learn that business was being transacted via non-registered uncompliant phones? This must be depressing and demoralising for the people inside the system trying against the odds to turn around their organisations.
Christine Elliott
Institute for Turnaround, London

• Perhaps the proceeds of the bank fines for misbehaviour (some £2bn?) could either be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to combat Ebola or help pay the EU bill that falls due in December – if the UK is still short of readies to meet its bill on time.
Susan Gregory
Burton in Lonsdale, Lancashire

• Can you please stop referring to banking as an industry? When did banking last make anything? Considering the damage it has done, it should at least be called an unindustry or maybe a criminal conspiracy but an industry? It’s an insult to the real industries in this country, whose biggest problem is not competition, but the impossibility of getting much-needed finance from the “banking industry”.
Jim Morrison
New Barnet, London

Sandwich production at the Greencore factory in Northampton Sandwich production at the Greencore factory in Northampton

Eight-hour days and five-day weeks, which were the norm till relatively recently and enabled people to organise care for children around their work, seem no longer to be on offer (‘They come here and make our sandwiches’, 15 November). But only young adults with no family responsibilities can consider working 12-hour shifts and cope at the same time with unpredictable work patterns. Hence the need to entice young people from eastern Europe, to whom the wages offered here sound wonderful, until they meet the reality of the cost of living.

Are companies such as Greencore and Sports Direct really unable to predict the staffing levels they need and offer regular work on permanent contracts or is this just a way to avoid holiday and sickness pay? Some companies seem to believe they get more out of staff from a regime of fear – bolstered by the attitude of the Department of Work and Pensions to the unemployed. Yet all evidence shows that when people are treated well, they respond with loyalty and a willingness to go the extra mile. The Quaker-run companies such as Cadbury and Rowntree were originally built on that principle.

Companies like Greencore should heed the words of Michael Marks who founded M&S: “I pay my staff enough so they can afford to buy my shirts.” Short-term profits are leading to a shrinking of the economy because of large numbers of people on minimum wage, with uncertain hours and no income security.
Ruth Funnell
Great Torrington, Devon

• Greencore workers are paid the princely wage of £7 an hour, while boss Patrick Coveney lavishesv £1.3m a year on himself, around £400 an hour – nearly 60 times the rate of his staff. Doesn’t this tell us all we need to know about “prosperity Britain”?
Dr Richard Carter

A sign above a chemist shop A sign above a chemist shop. Photograph: Alamy

I remember my mum telling me that pre-NHS people who couldn’t afford to see a doctor (including my family) went to seek advice and medicine from the chemist because it was cheaper. Is Jeremy Hunt preparing us for a return to that (Hunt urges patients to visit pharmacist, not A&E, 14 November)?
Karen Bates
Macclesfield, Cheshire

• I suppose I should apologise for having clicked on the link (Kim Kardashian naked didn’t break the internet, 13 November), but if your organ must pander to redtop tastes, is it too much to ask the subs to use arse rather than ass?
Steve Simmons
Camberley, Surrey

• Picked and ate possibly the last blackberry of the season today, a little winey but acceptable.
Alan Pearson


Reading the comments attached under media stories about the US and China signing an agreement to reduce carbon emissions, I found the usual petty diatribes from climate-change deniers and contrarians.

The funny thing is that their interventions are so utterly pointless. What are they in fact afraid of? Why does the act of creating employment by making homes more energy efficient, thereby saving money and alleviating fuel poverty, terrify the living daylights out of climate-change deniers? Are we to imagine that they sit at home with their fridge doors and windows open just to be able to waste a little more energy and money?

Why are they so afraid of the world moving on from fossil fuels? Why do they resent powering cars and homes differently? Would this same bunch of naysayers have been found at the side of the road at the end of the 19th century, screaming abuse at electric streetlights and shouting for gas lamps to be retained?

Never has so much venom and angst been expended so pointlessly.

Christian Vassie


I live in solid nimby country which has seen off a number of wind-turbine proposals. The objections mostly centre on the appearance of turbines in the countryside. One thing which doesn’t seem to enter the heads of the objectors is that the impact is strictly temporary.

If one day they are superseded by some better form of energy conversion, the towers can be taken down and all that will be left is a small concrete base. The countryside will be as it was. Quite apart from the global-warming issue, there will be no destruction by opencast sites, no acid rain, no aquifer contamination and no radioactive waste to be stored for 25,000 years.

What will our great-great-grandchildren think of us if we contaminate and degrade our beautiful country for ever, just because we want to preserve the view from our windows for our brief lifespan?

Derek Chapman

Southampton, Hampshire

Your editorial “Brisbane’s legacy” (17 November) needs a reality check. Obama may have forced climate change on to the G20 agenda, but nothing substantial was agreed. Australia’s prime minister is in denial about climate change and has disbanded his advisory panel. Both Abbot and Putin wanted climate change off the agenda because both countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their energy needs and foreign revenue. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and Australia of coal. What Brisbane demonstrated is that the chances of the UN brokering a meaningful climate-change deal next year in Paris are close to zero as long as deniers and dictators are in a position to sabotage the negotiations.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

David Hockney (report, 17 November) raised an important question when he said, “We can go on and on about oil, but if there wasn’t any, what would happen?” The International Energy Agency has said that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves need to stay in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, and for many climate scientists, that is a conservative estimate.

We have the capacity to transition to a way of living without oil dependency – new technologies, renewable energy and adjustments to consumption patterns can make this a reality. If we shifted to living “as if there weren’t any oil”, we would be taking a significant step in protecting the planet for future generations.

The oil industry propagates a myth that fossil fuels are an essential part of our way of life. By sponsoring arts institutions, oil giants such as BP create the impression that they are generous and responsible; they cleanse their image and purchase a “social licence” to operate. But many in the arts world not only recognise the risks of tacitly supporting the fossil-fuel industry but, from the artist Conrad Atkinson to the playwright Mark Ravenhill, are willing to speak out against it.

Chris Garrard

Tadley, Hampshire


Free patients to make their own IVF choices

Professor Evan Snyder is right that mitochondrial donation must be licensed for patient trials or use only once regulators are satisfied that any risks are sufficiently low (report, 17 November).

But while US regulators are free to make this judgement, UK regulators are not: clinical use of the techniques involved is currently illegal in the UK but not in the US. It is thus critically important that Parliament rapidly passes regulations to allow mitochondrial donation in principle, so that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority can license specific clinics to offer it as soon as there is evidence that it is safe enough to proceed.

Families affected by devastating mitochondrial diseases, properly advised by their doctors about risks and benefits, are best placed to decide whether to use these techniques to try to have a healthy child. They should not be denied this reproductive choice for any longer than is necessary.

Dr Jeremy Farrar

Director, Wellcome Trust,

London NW1

Don’t let murderers choose our words

When someone commits a brutal and deadly act against another person it is often referred to by the media as a “killing”. Similarly those who commit such acts are often referred to as “jihadists” or “militants”.

Instead of using terms which are often generated and used by those people and groups responsible for these acts, the media should be using the words “murder”, “murderers” and “terrorists” – plain and simple. Please leave the fantasy, lies and fiction completely to the criminals.

Laurence Williams

Louth, Lincolnshire

I am deeply opposed to capital punishment and am horrified by the actions of Isis in Syria and Iraq. But consider these atrocities in the cultural landscape of the region: a quick internet search shows that Saudi Arabia beheaded 16 people in the first half of August this year alone. If it is a barbaric act for Isis then surely it is a barbaric act for Saudi Arabia? Western media, in general, condemns Isis but remains silent about Saudi Arabia.

Brian Parkinson


Plenty of musicians north of the border

I read with interest Adam Sherwin’s article on the National Children’s Orchestra and the north/south divide (14 November). But I would like to reassure your readers that classical music is alive and well in Scotland. We have our own National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, which run a variety of orchestras at different levels from ages eight upwards, all to an amazingly high standard.

As I write this letter, I have just welcomed 60 nine- to 15-year-olds to one of the Scottish Schools Orchestra Trust’s regular Play Away Days in Perthshire. Seeing them at work convinces me that enthusiasm for classical music among the current generation of youngsters in Scotland remains high.

OK, we have six flutes but only three bassoons, and 19 violins but only five violas, but all these children are showing real interest and talent and a genuine desire to achieve high standards in orchestral playing. The National Children’s Orchestra of GB is doing a fantastic job, but please don’t assume that youngsters who don’t audition for it are not capable. Maybe they have simply found another outlet.

Jean Murray

Director, Scottish Schools Orchestra Trust,



Countryside is a killing ground

Deirdre Conniss (Letters, 17 November) criticises Jane Merrick for “expecting the countryside to operate as a gigantic playground for herself and other townies”.

My experience is that the opposite is true – it is country landowners who expect to use the countryside as their own giant playground, mainly involving games that result in wildlife being hunted to death.

Merrick has clearly outraged Ms Conniss by “raiding” farmers’ sloes on hedges. She was perhaps lucky to find any sloes at all, as many farmers’ hedges are currently being massacred by heavy machinery, a barbaric process which strips off all hedgerow food, depriving not only the odd presumptuous “townie” of a few sloes, but thousands of birds of their winter food supply.

If the landowners and farmers of the countryside would stop slaughtering badgers, foxes, hares, deer, game birds and birds of prey, and decimating wildlife populations through intensive farming methods, they would be in a better moral position to lecture others.

Penny Little

Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

My tiny contribution to the cost of Europe

I have just received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs showing how my tax was calculated in 2013-4 and how this money was spent. Since it seems that three-quarters of 1 per cent is spent on Europe, it can be seen that both Ukip and the Coalition are guilty of gross exaggeration.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey


A knotty landing

The existential problems experienced by the hapless Philae lander (15 November) bring new meaning to the expression “caught between a rock and a hard place”.

Stan Labovitch



Sir, The welfare and upbringing of children is the first duty of parents and they should know these responsibilities well enough to be able to judge when children are sensible enough to be left alone or in the charge of younger siblings; if there is any doubt then children should not be left. Anything less is in breach of parents’ moral responsibilities (report and leading article, Nov 15).

To ask government ministers to take on those responsibilities, and so give parents the opportunity for others to take the blame when things go wrong, shows a grave lack of any sense of duty and care.

The welfare of children starts at home, from where most of their guidance should emanate. These ethics of parenthood were learnt by example, among the poorest of people during the 1930s; without a welfare system they coped alone and showed their children that they were cherished. Most of the parents in our community put their own needs and wants second to our welfare. Both my parents were in work for most of the time, and we children assumed responsibility in home-alone situations (coal fires and all) when they judged that we were able — but certainly not before.

I am a great-grandmother, and care deeply about family life and my mother-country, but I am in despair for the welfare and upbringing of many children and for the future of Britain. It is appalling that parents feel the need of such a law. What culture has raised them to believe that they come before the welfare of their children?

Eileen Johnson
Cheadle, Staffs

Sir, “Parents seek clarity over when to leave a child”. Who are those parents? Surely it all depends on the situation, the maturity of the child, how well the parents trust a child, and the reason for leaving a child on their own, etc. If a parent cannot judge this, there is something wrong. A law cannot provide the answer. Or is this simply so parents can hold the authorities responsible rather than themselves, if anything goes wrong?

Yvonne Graham

Sir, Many years ago, when living on the edge of a large town, my 6-year-old son was in bed while my 7-year-old daughter was walking home in the dark from Brownies. I then received a message that the person coming with her had left her. Previously my older son had been hit by a group of boys when walking past them in daylight. What would you have done that night? Parents are responsible for their children and must make difficult decisions.

Joanna Young
Cirencester, Glos

Sir, As soon as the law tries to specify the age at which children may be left alone there will be cases in which no harm at all has occurred but where the law has been broken and responsible parents persecuted. Why should this area of parental judgment be superseded by statute when there are so many judgments required of parents? Should we not consider legislating to protect more crucial aspects of children’s lives, such as the advertising directed at them and the liberty of those who have behaved manipulatively towards them?

Peter Inson
East Mersea, Essex

Sir, I left my elder son at home alone for the first time at the age of 11. The 15-minute absence to collect a prescription was preceded by an equal amount of time warning him what not to touch and explaining what to do in case of any emergency, however improbable. I concluded by asking if he had any questions. “Yes,” he replied, earnestly. “Where do we keep the matches?”

Sandra Clarke
Dartford, Kent

Sir, I disagree with Ros Altmann (“Ageist road sign promotes job prejudice”, Nov 17). The sign warning of elderly people shows a couple in their 70s to 80s, not vigorous people in their 50s. I am in my 80s and am aware that in a busy street I am more vulnerable than previously, in that I am not able to respond as quickly.
Anthony J Carr

Sir, It is not only road signs that discriminate. Most car parks have spaces for the disabled and parents with children, yet when I drive my mother in law, who is elderly and frail, no such facility is provided. It can be more demanding to get an aged person into a shop than a couple of children in a buggy.
Leo McCormack
Sedgefield, Co Durham

Sir, I was under the impression that the road sign depicting a hunched-over couple meant “Beware elderly pickpockets”.
Peter Bowen-Simpkins
Reynoldston, Swansea

Sir, My wife’s grandmother died in the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed 50 million people. Ebola could do the same, or worse, and should be the overarching concern of world leaders.

Many nations are helping generously, but others are not (News, Nov 15). Britain must urge the UN to shout louder to spotlight the pitiful response of Russia and to shake from their torpor Brazil, India and South Africa — all hit severely in 1918.
Rodney Buckton

Sir, The refusal by the home affairs select committee to nominate a head for the historical child sex abuse inquiry (News, Nov 14) means that the home secretary, Theresa May, faces an even more tortuous task.

I suggest sending for a bishop. There has been outstanding work done by bishops: for instance as chairman of the Hillsborough independent panel and as adviser to the Macpherson report on Stephen Lawrence. In the debate on women bishops, the General Synod affirmed the critical role of bishops in building integrity, trust and sensitivity. In the previous synod there was a strong bishop lead on safeguarding and clergy discipline, with survivor groups represented. Sounds like a good CV for a place on the inquiry.
Dr Phillip Rice
Member of the C of E General Synod, London E9


Why grammar is still important; the SNP’s referendum hopes; letting Ched Evans go back to work; and do you wish it could be Christmas everyday?

At least 30% of teachers are not fully qualified in 41 primary and 12 secondary schools.

Should traditional English lessons be scrapped? Photo: GETTY IMAGES

7:00AM GMT 17 Nov 2014


SIR – Dr Heather Martin’s suggestion that traditional English lessons be scrapped from the curriculum is misguided.

Her argument presupposes that English lessons in mainstream schools are focused on the dry teaching of grammar and syntax. They aren’t, and haven’t been for years. Far from alleviating parents’ and teachers’ “anxiety” about this subject, the abolition of English lessons in favour of a “multi-disciplinary methodology” will only increase it.

Excellent English lessons in our schools already explore the richness and subtlety of the language using a range of sources. There is nothing wrong with combining this with a scrutiny of its grammatical and syntactical structures.

The key is stimulating and engaging teaching, not the abolition of a discipline.

Dr Millan Sachania
Head Master, Streatham & Clapham High School
London SW16

SIR – In the Eighties, many teachers believed that children would learn to read naturally, and that drilling phonics would take all the joy out of reading.

My son suffered from this fanciful notion, but an article in The Daily Telegraph alerted me to a retired teacher who still believed in teaching children about letters and sounds. Under new instruction, my son went from being a non-reader to being six months ahead in his ability.

Research has shown that higher-order skills cannot develop without a firm foundation of basic knowledge, which develops poorly unless explicitly taught.

Prof Tom Burkard
Easton, Norwich

SIR – I was initially taught Russian using the Nuffield method. This was similar to what Dr Martin is suggesting in that we were supposed to pick up the language by means of conversation and role play.

This approach did not work and the structure of Russian grammar remained a mystery to me until I learnt Latin the traditional way, and then it all fell into place.

I feel privileged to have received traditional English language tuition and pride myself on my grammar and spelling. Sometimes we have to endure boredom and hard work to reap the rewards.

Jackie Johnson

SIR – As a child of the Sixites I was not taught English grammar and there was no particular importance placed on correct spelling. I picked up some grammatical rules through studying foreign languages, but I would like to have a better understanding of my own language.

The basic framework of language should be taught to all children in primary school. This could be balanced with opportunities for them to put grammatical rules to one side and express themselves.

Christine Matkin
Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

SNP referendum hopes

SIR – Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out a second referendum after the 2016 general election if there is an SNP victory in Scotland and has even hinted that if Britain were to vote to leave Europe, but Scotland opt to stay, that would be a legitimate trigger for another plebiscite.

The majority of Scots who voted No did so because they believed Scotland’s future economic prosperity lay within the United Kingdom, and they held as a strong desire to remain British.

As Mrs Sturgeon takes over from Alex Salmond as party leader and First Minister she should accept the referendum defeat, rule out a second vote and respect the fact that the Scots chose unity over division.

William Beddows
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – Which part of the answer “No” does the SNP not understand?

Robin Lane
Devizes, Wiltshire

Litterbug Brits

SIR – Robert Colvile’s observations about the “litter crisis” in Britain (Comment, November 14) come as no surprise.

Littering is an offence but, like so many other rules and laws in this country, enforcement is lacking. Singapore seems able to get it right, so why not Britain?

R K Hodge
Chichester, West Sussex

Girl power

SIR – Jemima Lewis bemoans the lack of powerful female characters for girls to look up to.

May I suggest, with no irony whatsoever, the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? Its compelling mixture of slice-of-life comedy, messages of tolerance and acceptance and, above all, powerful and central female characters have made it internationally successful with both male and female audiences.

Harry Drummon
Midhurst, West Sussex

Life before Ambridge

SIR – Enough about The Archers.

Bring back Dick Barton: Special Agent with Jock and Snowy.

David Hudson
Lyndhurst, Hampshire

Let Evans do his job

SIR – Ched Evans has served his time in prison, which is a clear enough message for young people. He now has a right to earn a living, doing the job that he has trained for.

Marguerite Bowyer
West Huntspill, Somerset

SIR – I wonder whether Jessica Ennis-Hill and all those who have protested against Ched Evans being allowed back into his football career have digested the facts of his case, which are so well reported by Allison Pearson.

His conviction is due for review. If he believes he is innocent, why should he apologise?

Ian Francis
Rochford, Essex

SIR – One would have thought that the Football Association would have a ruling on the employment of convicted criminals. It should not be a decision for Sheffield United alone.

Jessica Ennis-Hill has done well to make a stand and bring this issue to the fore.

Dr Robert J Leeming
Coventry, Warwickshire

NHS accountability

SIR – Laura Donnelly refers to patients’ confusion about out-of-hours GP services.

Primary Care Trusts, whatever their defects, had strong lay representation on their boards. The newly set up Clinical Commissioning Groups have only token lay representation. Similarly, the patient groups linked to GP practices appear to have unclear terms of reference and limited power. We have no democratic means, locally, of bringing about change.

The contrast with the reforms in education is stark. The system of academies and free schools is highly responsive to local democratic pressure.

We are unlikely to see significant improvement in the standard of delivery by NHS England until a strong system of local accountability is put in place.

Robert Batchelor
Northwood, Middlesex

Age is just a number

SIR – How ironic that, in her article lauding Dame Judi Dench and her stand against ageism and the media’s reluctance to employ older women, Cathy Newman should then choose to apologise to her role model for revealing her age.

George East
Havant, Hampshire

Time and a place

SIR – Clapping at ceremonies seems to have become the norm, despite it being so vulgar and inappropriate. I always tell school pupils that you clap at performances but not ceremonies.

The last time I attended the nightly Menin Gate ceremony, I reiterated this to my pupils and a group of visiting soldiers overheard. I was given a round of applause.

Noeleen Murphy
London SE22

Politicians’ porkies

SIR – I am greatly reassured to learn that the average Briton tells more than 10 lies a week – there must be some very honest people around to offset the politicians.

John Newman
Hinckley, Leicestershire

Christmas is spoilt by its ever-earlier arrival

The festive spirit arrives early at the Aldeburgh Carnival in Suffolk . Photo: Alamy

SIR – Nathan Cunningham is to be congratulated on his work analysing data to establish the start of the Christmas season.

I conducted my own study, based on 32 years of commuting by train from Winchester to Waterloo, in which the “index” was the HBI (Hamleys Bag Indicator).

In the early Seventies, passengers would appear for the homeward journey carrying such bags in the second week of December. Over the years I noticed them earlier and earlier. By the time I stopped commuting in 2002, it was the third week of September.

Michael Fielding
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – When I was a child the only time we ever saw a mince pie was at Christmas. It was a seasonal treat that we looked forward to and enjoyed.

Now that they are available from October, by the time Christmas finally arrives I’m heartily sick of the sight, taste and smell of them.

Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – While out shopping last weekend I was astonished to come across a display of Christmas bedding.

If proof were needed that there is more disposable income around than ever before, this has to be it.

Irena Milloy
Buckden, Cambridgeshire

Was the Philae lander project money well spent?

SIR – One cannot but marvel at the brilliant technological achievement of landing on a comet, but what is the point?

Instead of trying to work backwards over billions of years, at enormous cost, to determine what happened all that time ago, it would be better to sort out some of today’s desperate problems.

John Cuthbert
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – You report that the small lander “shot back up into the air”. Does this mean that the comet has an atmosphere?

Eddie Collings
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Should the brave little Philae lander be renamed the Philae bouncer?

Robert Graham
Wye, Kent

SIR – The European Space Agency asteroid lander Philae is performing exactly as one would reasonably expect of any European project.

It is largely in the dark, it is upside down, everyone with a financial interest declares it a success, but the solar energy isn’t producing as much electricity as it requires to survive.

Ian Wallace
Whitley Bay, Northumberland

Irish Times:

Sir, – The treatment of the Tánaiste was not a protest, it was mob rule (“Kenny says protests ‘not about water’”, Front Page, November 17th). In no way was this a peaceful protest. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 22.

Sir, – Having marched against water charges, I am shocked, angry and ashamed at the menacing nature of the protest in Tallaght. People have a democratic right to protest and demonstrate in a peaceful, lawful manner, but they have no right to obstruct or hold captive anyone in a car, much less bang on it in a threatening manner. They may disagree with Government policy but that does not give them the right to intimidate any member of the Dáil.

People claiming rights have a responsibility to act within the law. Those involved should consider that their behaviour was counterproductive to their cause. Many, like myself, who have marched in the past may reconsider doing so in future. I have no wish for anarchy. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Paul Murphy TD has stated that what happened in Tallaght was a non-violent protest. To be imprisoned in your car is a serious form of violence and a denial of freedom. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – I suggest that members of the Government began the campaign of frightening and menacing the voters to bully and cajole us on many issues and it is simply chancing its arm to see how much they can bleed from us. Perhaps now the politicians will step back from the abyss, stop their confrontation with the justifiably angry voters and discontinue their bullying of us by actually listening for once. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – As tempting as it is to belittle the water balloon incident (and all credit to the Tánaiste for her dignified response in such circumstances), it would be very wrong for the Government or political class to sneer at those who throw water balloons and to misunderstand what such incidents mean.

The fact some people felt so angry, so disconnected from the political process, that they felt their only option was to throw a water balloon, or even worse a brick, means those people no longer have any trust in the State to respond to their needs. The political class has no concept of what it’s like to get a water bill, even if it’s €200, when you have €0 in the bank, or of the sheer drudgery of living week to week literally counting every single cent, so they genuinely don’t get it.

But the political class, including the media, would do well to stop to think that such public responses stem from the anger and frustration people feel that despite their sacrifices for the last six years, nothing has changed for them, as they struggle to feed, clothe and house their families.

Maybe the chattering and establishment classes, who think they won’t be affected by rising anger, need to start thinking through the consequences if those angry people actually do go and vote in the coming general election.

They don’t need to win the election, they just need to win more seats than their centre-right and hard-right counterparts. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – By now, it must be clear to everyone that Irish society is under attack from a small, tightly organised group of political ideologues who are fanatical in their determination to impose their will on the people.

This group is highly disciplined, secretive, has unlimited funds and access to an army of press advisers and spin-doctors. They have consistently shown their disregard for Dáil procedures and the broad wishes of the Irish people.

The Economic Management Council must be disbanded at once. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.

Sir, – It is time, I think, that Mr Kenny and Ms Burton took some meaningful measures to alleviate the extreme hardship their parties have created.

The patience of the “little people” has finally ended. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – Paul Murphy TD sees no problem about encouraging others to indulge in a type of behaviour that flouts the rights of other citizens, whether they be politicians or not, to pass peacefully on their way. How does this accord with his membership of the Dáil and its law-making role?

His attitude is in marked contrast to the dignified way in which over 100,000 people protested throughout the country a few weeks ago against water charges. The debacle of the water charge issue in no way justifies the type of protest Mr Murphy has “no problem” with. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Can’t pay for water but can pay for eggs to use as missiles? Some logic! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien’s article of November 15th displays a confusion of morality with legality (“Legalising prostitution legalises a fantasy – that sex does not involve the self”, Opinion & Analysis). The debate is not about whether prostitution is “wrong”. The issue is whether the customer should be criminalised or not. There are many things that are considered wrong and that the state (rightly) does not intervene to prohibit: for example worshipping false gods, or missing church on Sunday. States that do enforce morality are called theocracies and have a bad press (rightly so).

As a general rule it is not the legitimate function of the state to police private behaviour, insofar as such behaviour is confined to consenting adults. The logical result of a contrary view – regardless of its well-intentioned adherents – is that, potentially, it leaves the way open for the government to criminalise anything it doesn’t like.

Historically, laws prohibiting alcohol and gay sex are examples of how governments have got things disastrously wrong when the principle of individual freedom is not held as paramount. It’s entirely consistent both to disapprove of prostitution (which I do) and also not to want to control what other people do with their bodies.

The analogy with buying votes is invalid because buying votes undermines the democratic system. Buying sexual services may indeed morally harm one or both parties involved, but that’s an issue of morality, and should not be one of legality. Whether an individual wishes to indulge in fantasy, or risk the stability of a relationship they are involved in, is a matter for the individual’s conscience, not for the criminal courts.

Whether sex can be separated from a person’s body is an interesting question which, whether the answer is in the negative or the affirmative, is the appropriate province of metaphysics and moral philosophy, but not of legislators. In any case it’s not clear why, from a legal point of view, we should ban one form of alienation and not others. Any kind of paid work which the worker would not do if he or she were not paid for it could be described in terms of “bribery,” or indeed as a form of slavery for that matter. If the commodification of sex is banned, why should not other forms of commodification be banned as well?

There are well-worn arguments that the whole capitalist system should be prohibited since it involves both commodification and exploitation, both of which are seen as bad things by critics. What is not clear is why sex should be singled out over other activities (eg bricklaying or plumbing) as one that should not be commodified, unless such singling-out is for basically moral reasons. Such moral qualms may have validity in their own right, but they have no legitimate place in law-making or law-enforcement. It is a serious, and dangerous, incursion on freedom to allow the Garda to weigh up the relative quotas of love and money in any given relationship. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – It is undeniable that vulnerable young women are trafficked for sex. It is also undeniable that some women choose to work in this area. Why are people seeking to use the “Swedish model” or, indeed, any model taken from another country?

From exposure to the debate on radio and in the newspapers in recent weeks, it seems that none of the “off-the-shelf” options from other countries even work properly for where they were designed. Is it not possible to carry out a proper analysis of the issues at play in Ireland and create the “Irish model”? At least that way we could have a solution designed to work properly for all those concerned in Ireland, making sure that trafficking is tackled and that those that choose to work in prostitution are properly protected. I would have thought that the illusion of a one-size-fits-all solution working anywhere would be well over. Although maybe people are looking to cover their behinds so that, when the “model” doesn’t work, they can point at the Swedes and blame them. That way no one need be accountable for the consequences. Actually, that sounds exactly like an Irish model. – Yours, etc,


Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – I find myself totally on the side of the teachers who in the interests of students are resisting the continuing arrogance of the Department of Education and Science in demanding teacher assessment of their own students.

I am writing out of personal experience. Some 54 years ago, I sat the “mock” Intermediate exam, which was then marked by our own teachers. Mathematics was my best subject and there were three separate papers. I had an excellent teacher, but one who knew of only one way to reach a correct answer to any question. I obtained the correct answers but was failed in each paper because of my methodology. I sat the State Intermediate exam some three months later and obtained marks in excess of 80 per cent in each paper. Two years later I received a distinction in mathematics in the Trinity matriculation.

This persuades me that the teachers who refuse to assess their own students for a State exam are acting in the best interests of the students. – Yours, etc,

Right Rev Dr



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects and accountants are certified to practice through training, examinations, accreditation and registration. They assess, advise, treat, instruct and make judgment calls on a daily basis.

If teachers wish to retain professional status as educators, surely they need to be confident in their ability to assess objectively a student’s work – whether it is a student known to them or one whom they have never met before. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Recent weeks have seen a further worsening of traffic congestion in Dublin, to the detriment of the regional economy and quality of life (“Pause offers possible route to settling bus row”, November 15th). Dublin needs increased capacity in public transport. Consequently, there should be more than enough demand to sustain an increase, not a reduction, in driver jobs in Dublin Bus, as well as among private operators. Providing additional services to meet demand should be the priority.

In my view, the National Transport Authority would be better engaged in seeking to increase bus-carrying capacity on high-demand corridors in and out of the city, including by licensing more private operators in regulated competition, rather than getting bogged down in a process of privatisation of existing orbital and local routes which would generate a lesser return in terms of tackling congestion. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – How do you get from Gorey, Co Wexford, to Tinahely, Co Wicklow, a distance of 16 miles, using public transport? Take a bus to Dublin 60 miles away, then take a bus back for another 65 miles, but don’t make any promises to be there at any particular time. Can you just imagine how brilliant the national transport service will be when it is privatised? – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – I read with disbelief Carl O’Brien’s report on the queuing system at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (“A day in the life at the State’s immigration offices”, November 17th), where foreign nationals are required to get in line at the crack of dawn in order get a numbered ticket which will enable them to have the privilege to pay the Government the sum of €300 to apply for or to renew on an annual basis their GNIB registration card.

Despite the response by the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to Dáil questions in relation this situation, in which it was claimed in June that an online appointment system was being planned, the situation has appeared to have worsened.

In an age in which Ireland boasts of being Europe’s technology hub, how difficult is it and how long does it take to set up an online booking system? To put things in perspective, my 10-year-old car, which requires an annual NCT at €55 a go, gets much better customer service than these foreign nationals. All I have do is to log on to the dedicated website, book a date, choose a time slot that suits me and my car, and so long as I arrive on time, the whole process takes less than an hour! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – If I understand the latest proposals for water charges correctly, a single person living in a mansion with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi would pay less than a couple with several children living in a three-bed semi-detached house. If that’s correct, it would be a little hard to swallow, I’m afraid. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – The latest drip-feed on likely water charges has been, as usual, devoid of debate. Should every resident get a reasonable amount of water free of charge? How much water is necessary, or excessive? How to structure the charges to incentivise both rich and poor to use water economically?

It is telling that Government politicians keep repeating that Dublin ran out of water last year. Dublin City Council turned off the taps, despite the supply meeting biological drinking water standards but only because cosmetic standards were not met. The water was coloured from minute peat particles, stirred up by storms. Yet it is practice elsewhere in the country to supply water which would make people sick. The motive? Vested interests will make a lot of money to pipe water from the Shannon.

Introduction of a progressive, affordable, way of charging for water, free for essential use, would incentivise everyone to conserve water, minimise the cost of a good, sustainable water service, and would improve fairness and equity. Alas, it seems that this Government has a different agenda. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

Sir, – The recent US media interviews with IDA Ireland’s Martin Shanahan and Tourism Ireland’s Niall Gibbons have underlined an uncomfortable reality that is so readily ignored at home (“US radio host wants to know if Ireland plans to leave the UK”, November 14th). I have had personal experience of this while living abroad in the US and continental Europe. The reality is that the constitutional status of Ireland is not well known or understood outside our shores. – Yours, etc,


Mount Pleasant,

Washington DC.

Sir, – It seems that Mary Lou McDonald has figured out how to work the Dáil system for minimal accountability and maximum publicity. She won’t enter the Dáil when she doesn’t want to answer questions, and she won’t leave when her questions aren’t answered. – Yours, etc,


Sterling Heights,


Sir, – Surely the best way to commemorate the Easter 1916 Rising would be to have one day when no patient has to sleep overnight on a trolley or one night when we have zero homeless. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

I applaud Donna Harnett on her letter to your newspaper (November 11), and for the debate it has sparked in relation to the work-life balance of taxpayers and childcare costs.

However, I was very dismayed after reading Gerard O’Regan’s article (“So, who is going to mind the baby?” – November 15).

I too stopped working due to the high cost of childcare. After my second child was born I realised I would be better off spending quality time with my children during their most formative years, rather than going out to work. This was because I did not even have enough money left over to put petrol in my car to get to work after mortgage repayments and childcare costs were covered. Luckily, we were able to restructure our mortgage and my husband’s income was enough to cover repayments – as long as we stuck to a very tight household budget.

Ironically, the job I gave up – a job which I loved – was as a Montessori teacher in an early years care and education centre. Although I was not highly paid ,I am offended by Gerard O’Regan’s statement that childcare centres have a “propensity to hire cheap-as-possible employees, who may lack both the aptitude and the interest required to look after children”. The vast majority of childcare employees are educated professionals who love and respect children and value greatly the impact the quality of their care can make on young lives.

However, requirements for staff under preschool regulations – and the measly capitation offered by the government under the ECCE Free Preschool Year scheme – means that fees charged for childcare for children aged up to three and for after-school care have had to be increased. This is to make services sustainable and in the interest of the quality experience of children.

The average fee for preschool in Ireland before the introduction of the ECCE scheme in 2009 was €75 a week. Five years later the government are giving only €62.50 capitation for 38 weeks a year. Out of this rent, rates and overheads costs have to be met – so is it any wonder staff are paid so little?

And how can we expect to improve quality and the level of staff training when the teachers delivering the ECCE scheme are forced to go on the dole over the summer months?

Like Donna Hartnett I believe the government does not understand the plight of the taxpaying public. It saddens me that Gerard O’Regan’s article shares the Government’s same lack of awareness about the financial reality for childcare providers in Ireland. It shows that Mr O’Regan obviously conducted no research at all before vilifying childcare services and making debt-burdened parents feel guilty for going out to work.

In summary, I would ask Gerard O’Regan, the media in general and the Government of this country to start respecting and valuing childcare professionals. This, in turn, will help working parents to feel confident about how their children are being cared for. In this way we can surely create brighter futures for Irish children.

Jo-Anne Corcoran


Politicians must heed the people

The recent spate of misgivings about Uisce Eireann’s intention to introduce water charges says much about the condition of politics in Ireland. Political life seems to have cut itself adrift from the people whose raw experience of supporting family life was so eloquently expressed by Donna Hartnett (Irish Independent, Letters, November 11).

A disjunction between the rhetoric and the reality of political activity tends to characterise all democracies. The rhetoric speaks of the wish to create a better tomorrow through a commitment to the demands of justice and fairness; the reality shows us that the driving force in politics is the tendency to minister to those who already have more than enough.

Spin doctors, masters of the art of persuasion, are employed to sell policies to the public in order to manufacture popular consent, often appealing to our worst instincts.

In a democracy, political authority is assumed to reside in the will of the people. We are free to the extent that we can regard the laws that govern us as the expression of our common values. Political policies and practices work well to the advantage of all if they are in tune with critically-formed public opinion.

What has stirred the outrage of people is that many crucial decisions are biased towards certain powerful interest groups. In a representative democracy we expect our politicians to focus on what is desirable, determine what is possible and implement what is feasible. We expect this form of reflection to be conducted on our behalf, in the interests of the nation.

However, what counts as the national interest has to be determined through a genuine attempt to seek consensus on the direction in which we wish to see our country going. In any thoughtful society things don’t just happen, they are made to happen.

One can only hope that the courage and conviction of Donna Hartnett will leave its mark on the minds and sensibilities of our politicians.

In another age much of what has been done in our name would have triggered a rebellion.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, England

TDs beating the recession

Judging by the list of TDs’ expenses I’d agree with Mr Noonan when he says the recovery has spread across the country (Irish Independent, November 15). The question is, when will it get to the rest of us that are not TDs?

Philip Duffy

Knocklyon Road, Dublin 16

Ireland needs to calm down

As an Irish person living in Britain for over 30 years I am still a keen observer and participator in Irish political events.

When we go to our post office or GP surgery we observe people’s personal space and allow then their private transactions.

For me the events in Tallaght on Saturday violated the personal space of two women attending an adult education conferring event. Their space was violated severely when, in effect, they were held captive in the car, which it appears was banged on and had items thrown at it.

To see and hear an elected member of Dail Eireann then asking the rabble “Do we agree to let her go” only highlighted the fact that they were truly captives.

In order to get a full picture of the events of Saturday I have been listening to RTE radio and TV and other networks. I have just seen footage where an Tanaiste was physically hit on the head by something.

So the protesters said what they wanted to say, but they did it with violence. This was not peaceful protest. Nobody should be treated like that.

The launch of the Easter Rising consultation and planning was even marred by protest. Calm down Ireland or you will tarnish the one line of the 1916 Proclamation we all know – “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.

Some readers might say: “It’s OK for you, you do not live here”. I lived through Irish austerity in the 1980s and as a result was forced to migrate to Britain, but I never lost my love for and interest in all things Irish.

Frankly, with the sulk of Mary Lou in the Dail and the events in Tallaght are for me a giant step backward for Ireland’s democracy and does nothing for the reputation of Ireland and her emigrants abroad.

Gerry Molumby

Nottingham, England

Irish Independent


November 17, 2014

17 November 2014 Reading

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and read a little

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Ralph Herman was a versatile artiste in the sunset years of variety who performed with Jack Hylton and supported Vera Lynn

Ralph Herman, comedian and circus artiste

Ralph Herman, comedian and circus artiste

7:08PM GMT 16 Nov 2014


Ralph Herman, who has died aged 104, was an enterprising and versatile Russian émigré with a long career in the closing years of variety on stage both as a musical comedian and as a speciality act with his circus family, the Four Hermans.

Contemporary reviewers termed them “equilibrists”, explaining that Herman, his brother and two sisters “are balancers while perched on rollers and on the tops of pedestals – at the same time playing music, juggling, and changing costumes”. All the balancing and tumbling required strength, and the 5ft 10in Herman was broad-shouldered and powerfully built, capable of holding up a human pyramid.

Bills featuring the Four Hermans also tended to include the Five Ralfinis, “Russian musical eccentrics”, for the good reason that they were Herman and family doing double duty. Throughout his career, Herman used various professional names deriving from his own, including when in a double act with his wife, Joan Knight.

Among the musical instruments Herman commanded were the soprano saxophone (his personal favourite), the clarinet, concertina and tin whistle, plus a specially constructed musical waistcoat. The family legend was that, when visiting Britain in the 1930s to ascertain its suitability for the family profession, Ralph saw a map of the London Underground and eagerly cabled back: “Many circuses here – Piccadilly, Oxford, Cambridge. Come at once.”

Raphiel Herman was born on February 18 1910 in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. (He settled on “Ralph” as part of the stage name “Ralph Rockfeld” in the late 1950s.) His parents, Aaron and Olga, had fortuitously taken the circus on a tour of the Far East just prior to the events of 1917. Then, attaining British citizenship by way of India, they travelled first to Paris and later to London. Among the Four Hermans’ first British appearances was at the Adelphi, Slough, in 1936, where Leon Cortez, a Cockney comedian and supporting actor who specialised in Shakespearean send-ups, was top of the bill with his Coster Band.

Soon they were supporting the tempestuous pairing of Arthur Lucan (as Old Mother Riley) and Kitty McShane at the Blackpool Palace, and by 1937 were playing Sidney Bernstein’s Granada chain. At the Holborn Empire in that year, the Hermans were on a bill headed by George Robey, the “Prime Minister of Mirth”, camp monologuist Douglas Byng, and (in a rare venture down south) Robb Wilton. In the same year, they performed alongside Hughie Green and his Gang at the Wolverhampton Hippodrome; the future quiz show host was then a teenage impressionist.

Ralph Herman and his wife Joan Knight

They twice performed with Jack Hylton and his band in 1937, at the Empress, Brixton, and at the notorious Glasgow Empire. A 1938 date with Tommy Trinder was at the Wood Green Empire, subsequently a venue for television shows. When Hylton turned from bandleader to impresario, the Hermans appeared in his presentation of Band Waggon (Finsbury Park Empire, 1938), with the radio pairing of Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch also augmented by the future Coronation Street stalwart Betty Driver.

The Hermans also performed as a circus act. At Christmas 1938 in Birmingham, they (as the Five Ralfinis) were among the comparatively few human performers, the line-up also comprising a boxing kangaroo, “performing Himalayan bears”, sea lions, waltzing horses and “Monsieur Julian’s educated monkeys and dogs”. They supported Vera Lynn at the Glasgow Empire in 1942 .

One of the last outings for the Four Hermans was in 1951, as part of an International Festival Circus at Rhyl. A year later, at the Alhambra, Morecambe, Herman and his wife made their debut as Ralph and Joan, an act in which he would produce a succession of instruments diminishing in size, with the cry “I got another one!” Amending the billing slightly to Ralph and Joan Rockfeld, they supported the outrageous Frank Randle in one of his last shows, Let’s Be Frank (1956), at the Pavilion, Liverpool.

Going solo as Ralph Rockfeld, he advertised himself as having “four changes of programme… either lounge suit or continental clown”. From 1957 onwards he featured in summer seasons on Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, and at Pontins holiday camps. He supported Harry Corbett and puppets in Sooty’s Christmas Party (Royal, Brighton, 1961-62).

On television, he appeared in Caravan (BBC, 1960), a children’s programme presented by Jeremy Geidt, who joined Peter Cook’s Establishment Club the next year. Herman’s fellow guests included Jimmy Edwards, Cardew “The Cad” Robinson, and Trevor Little, publicised as “TV’s comedy balloonist”. Work in “Olde Tyme Music Hall” revivals at seaside venues continued throughout the 1970s, and “Ralph Rockfeld and his musical extravaganza” had television spots on Morecambe and Wise and The Black and White Minstrel Show. A late stage turn was in Golden Years of Music Hall (Richmond, 1981) as one of a roster of veterans headed by the singer Adelaide Hall.

Ralph Herman’s wife survives him with their two daughters and one son.

Ralph Herman, born February 18 1910, died October 8 2014


British Labour Leader Miliband speech Party politics have become too presidential, say some, as controversy continues over Ed Miliband’s leadership of Labour. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

British politics has become too presidential with far too much emphasis on individual  party leaders instead of policy (“Miliband in new crisis as senior MPs back leadership change”, News)).

Labour’s problems stem from urging their leader to stick to the centre ground for fear of frightening floating voters with too much radicalism at a time when the centre has been so imploded by austerity that the old two-party game is over.

The Scottish referendum is just the start of irreversible progress towards a new federal constitution  that the Tories cannot stem, either with their undemocratic call for English votes on English issues, when there are no such issues that will not affect Scotland and Wales; or with one elected mayor for Manchester with a budget well below the level of funding cut by devolving austerity to local councils in England and Wales in a classic divide-and-rule manoeuvre.

The real Tory agenda is not deficit reduction, otherwise they would not have wasted billions on needless NHS reorganisation and on their botched welfare “reforms”.

The only way to prevent this is for Labour to make common cause with Liberal Democrats, who have always been consistent on the need for constitutional and electoral reform; they must make clear they will have no truck with a Tory party that has lurched so far to the right

Margaret Phelps


Vale of Glamorgan

Daniel Boffey was probably right when he wrote: “The headlines (relating to the Labour leadership) are distracting from significant problems currently facing David Cameron.”

They certainly seem to have distracted him and his colleagues on Sunday’s paper from writing  about Mr Osborne’s dissimulation with regards to the UK’s payments to  the EU. In the Observer this important issue was conspicuous by its absence.

However, this edition of the paper did devote the title page and four other pages to a leadership struggle in the Labour party in which the principal heir has specifically refused to stand now or ever.

All of this was inspired by some gutless wonders so confident in their stance that they were afraid to express their views openly.

Paul Hewitson


I turn the page from Ed Miliband and the Labour party’s squabbling and read that carers for vulnerable disabled people have – after 90 days of strikes with support from the Unite union – done a deal with the privatised Care UK that will see their wages “edging towards the living wage” (“After 90 days of strikes, Care UK workers celebrate new pay deal”, News). And Labour’s shadow ministers are muttering about Miliband instead of fighting about issues they can win an election on? Now that makes me despair.

David Reed

London NW3

Labour’s lack of credibility is far more serious than its leadership.

Thanks to our crazy electoral system, rather than fighting the Rochester and Strood byelection to win the seat with a higher turnout and divided rightwing vote at the next general election, Labour have decided to fight on as narrow a front as possible.

Locally in Chipping Barnet, having in May won 11 out of 21 council seats, we have not seen a single leaflet introducing their prospective parliamentary candidate and so we have no reason to consider voting tactically .

Such campaigning would give their supporters hope and stretch Tory resources.  Without this, Labour will fail to make many gains and not just in Scotland risk being outflanked.

David Nowell   

New Barnet, Hert



Sir, The welfare and upbringing of children is the first duty of parents and they should know these responsibilities well enough to be able to judge when children are sensible enough to be left alone or in the charge of younger siblings; if there is any doubt then children should not be left. Anything less is in breach of parents’ moral responsibilities (report and leading article, Nov 15).

To ask government ministers to take on those responsibilities, and so give parents the opportunity for others to take the blame when things go wrong, shows a grave lack of any sense of duty and care.

The welfare of children starts at home, from where most of their guidance should emanate. These ethics of parenthood were learnt by example, among the poorest of people during the 1930s; without a welfare system they coped alone and showed their children that they were cherished. Most of the parents in our community put their own needs and wants second to our welfare. Both my parents were in work for most of the time, and we children assumed responsibility in home-alone situations (coal fires and all) when they judged that we were able — but certainly not before.

I am a great-grandmother, and care deeply about family life and my mother-country, but I am in despair for the welfare and upbringing of many children and for the future of Britain. It is appalling that parents feel the need of such a law. What culture has raised them to believe that they come before the welfare of their children?

Eileen Johnson
Cheadle, Staffs

Sir, “Parents seek clarity over when to leave a child”. Who are those parents? Surely it all depends on the situation, the maturity of the child, how well the parents trust a child, and the reason for leaving a child on their own, etc. If a parent cannot judge this, there is something wrong. A law cannot provide the answer. Or is this simply so parents can hold the authorities responsible rather than themselves, if anything goes wrong?

Yvonne Graham

Sir, Many years ago, when living on the edge of a large town, my 6-year-old son was in bed while my 7-year-old daughter was walking home in the dark from Brownies. I then received a message that the person coming with her had left her. Previously my older son had been hit by a group of boys when walking past them in daylight. What would you have done that night? Parents are responsible for their children and must make difficult decisions.

Joanna Young
Cirencester, Glos

Sir, As soon as the law tries to specify the age at which children may be left alone there will be cases in which no harm at all has occurred but where the law has been broken and responsible parents persecuted. Why should this area of parental judgment be superseded by statute when there are so many judgments required of parents? Should we not consider legislating to protect more crucial aspects of children’s lives, such as the advertising directed at them and the liberty of those who have behaved manipulatively towards them?

Peter Inson
East Mersea, Essex

Sir, I left my elder son at home alone for the first time at the age of 11. The 15-minute absence to collect a prescription was preceded by an equal amount of time warning him what not to touch and explaining what to do in case of any emergency, however improbable. I concluded by asking if he had any questions. “Yes,” he replied, earnestly. “Where do we keep the matches?”

Sandra Clarke
Dartford, Kent

Sir. Once again we are told that the Somerset Levels are close to flooding (Nov 14). Locally it is even reported that a levy may be imposed on every inhabitant in the Somerset area to cover dredging costs and road repairs, etc. I think the government should purchase, at market value, the small number of properties at risk and demolish them (even if listed), so that no one can inhabit them. The cost would be considerably less than the current policy of hurling millions of pounds at the flooded areas.

Surely, nature will eventually win.

Anne Hague


Sir, David McCandless is wrong (“Collie is top, but don’t tell the bulldog”, Nov 15). The border collie is a wonderful dog, but one that it is cruel to keep as a pet unless you are prepared to give it hours of work or walking a day. The Irish wolfhound will happily get by on little exercise given the proximity of a warm fire, and will give much love and affection during its (usually) shorter life.

The glory of the dog is that there is a breed to match almost every personality, environment and situation. But every breed — and every dog — has its own needs. If Mr McCandless thinks the border terrier an overlooked treasure, he should take a walk around my village, where they are almost as ubiquitous as cockers.

David Laven

Ruddington, Notts


The impact of EU migration; Imperial War Museum cuts; changing Songs of Praise; and James Bond’s appetite for eggs

Wildcat strikes

Protesters at the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire in 2009 Photo: PA

7:00AM GMT 16 Nov 2014


SIR – Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP, eloquently describes the downsides to cheap immigrant labour.

At present, we have a shortage of particular skills in Britain. Only by improving the skill-set of British workers can we hope to provide the sort of expertise for which we too often rely on migrant workers.

This would decrease the likelihood of companies undercutting each other on price and lead to fewer British people emigrating for jobs, as well as far less social disruption and cost caused by uncontrolled influxes of migrants from Europe.

John Hannaford
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – We hear a great deal about certain benefits and costs relating to immigration, but we rarely address the additional costs resulting from the increase in population that immigration brings.

Presumably those EU member states that lose significant numbers of people to migration will, at some stage, benefit from a reduction in social benefit costs. As we appear to have a particular problem with excess immigration, would it not be reasonable for EU members who benefit from this imbalance to compensate Britain?

Peter Harvey

SIR – Population is the most critical aspect in the debate on immigration. Many would argue that Britain, as one of the most densely populated countries in the world, already has too many people.

Do those who oppose stricter immigration control believe that there is no upper limit to the population of this country?

William Deller
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – Claire Duffin is right to note that migrants in Calais would rather perish than return to a country of origin where they have no future.

I have just returned from Pas de Calais, where I met destitute migrants living in absolutely appalling conditions, which will worsen considerably with the onset of winter. They all lack essentials like safe drinking water, adequate nutritious food, sanitation and proper shelter. Many suffer ill-health from the physical and psychological effects of their situation. They are tired, hungry and desperate.

In fields near Saint-Omer I met several Syrian boys huddled together in a rain-sodden, muddy ditch under tarpaulins; one was just 10 years old and riddled with scabies. With little more than summer jackets and sandals to fend off bad weather, these children are at very real risk.

Our volunteer doctors and nurses are doing what they can to meet essential health needs.

In any other setting the international community would assure these vulnerable people the elementary assistance that should be afforded them according to globally agreed humanitarian standards.

Migrants in Calais are the responsibility of every government in Europe.

This inexcusable humanitarian crisis on our doorstop demands action.

Leigh Daynes
Executive Director, Doctors of the World UK
London E14

SIR – Immigration from the EU is not the main problem; illegal immigration and the ongoing chaotic asylum system is.

Our representatives in Parliament must resolve these issues now. Failure to do so will destabilise our homeland.

Hugh Jones

SIR – As a country with a reputation for welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers, we should be more positive about the situation in Calais.

We could send an immigration officer to the shelter to advise these unfortunate people on their rights, and an English teacher to help with the future integration of those considered eligible for entry to Britain. This would be an intelligent, humanitarian approach.

Wayne K Thomas
Treorchy, Glamorgan

How do you like your eggs in the morning, Mr Bond?

Roger Moore as secret agent 007 alongside Kristina Wayborn in Octopussy, 1983 . Photo: Alamy

SIR – Andrew M Brown refers to James Bond’s love of eggs.

Bond was always very careful to do as the locals did for breakfast, and eggs, being pretty ubiquitous, would frequently be a part of that.

However, if he were in the tropics, for example, his meal would revolve round exotic fruit. If he were in Turkey, the main component would be yoghurt.

John Lawrence
London NW2

SIR – Andrew M Brown quite rightly eulogises the breakfast egg. As a boy travelling to Singapore in 1957 aboard the SS Eumaeus, a Blue Funnel Line cargo-passenger ship, I was amazed at my first sight of the breakfast menu showing, among many other culinary delights, “eggs: fried, turned, scrambled, boiled or poached, omelettes plain and savoury”.

Over the course of the four-week journey I managed to work my way through the entire breakfast menu and its offerings of perfectly cooked eggs, several times over.

Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent

EAW fails to protect British citizens’ rights

SIR – The Home Secretary, Theresa May, fails to address the key point of objection to the European Arrest Warrant, which is that it denies to a British citizen the fundamental right to have a case brought before a British judge applying British principles of justice.

Mrs May’s article does, however, demonstrate how easily this right could be protected, without affecting the vast majority of cases in which the EAW is used. She tells us that only 4.3 per cent of the subjects extradited from Britain in the past five years were British. This 4.3 per cent should have this basic protection before being subjected to the rigours of a continental court applying the standards and procedures of continental systems.

Bertie Maddocks
Aughton, Lancashire

A different vice

SIR – If Mr McMillan wishes for a tougher and more rational approach to addiction, drug abuse and its social consequences, he might ask why governments are unwilling to tackle the problem of alcohol.

When I was younger there were licensing hours and alcohol was not sold in supermarkets. My university boasted few on-site bars and we students (who couldn’t usually afford alcohol anyway) sat around drinking coffee and discussing the human condition.

Alcohol is no more virtuous a way of taking away the pain of living, or of getting high, than cannabis.

Doraine Potts
Woodmancote, Gloucestershire

United songs of praise

SIR – I am delighted that Songs of Praise is going to embrace a “broader church”.

I am a Non-conformist but I have on occasion worshipped in a Roman Catholic church as part of a local “churches together” initiative. Long may such co-operation continue.

Dr Peter S Richards
Wallasey, Merseyside

SIR – I was intrigued to read about the plans that the BBC’s head of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, has to boost Songs of Praise’s “dwindling” following.

Unfortunately, the rot set in many years ago when it became the only vaguely religious programme on BBC 1; when it was gradually whittled down from 45 minutes in length to 32; when it was robbed of a regular slot and its mid-week repeat; and when 50 per cent of its diminished content was given over to formulaic interviews.

Godfrey H Holmes
Withernsea, East Yorkshire

Proud Canadians

SIR – Canada is a reserved, proud nation. We serve the world whenever we are needed. This is not always recognised, but that is not why we serve.

We recently were greatly shaken as a nation by the attacks on two of our soldiers on home soil. The effect of these attacks was clear in the huge increase in attendance at our remembrance services this week and the sale of over 19 million poppies, which we wore with pride to honour our veterans.

We have been shaken but we are resolved to protect the rights and freedoms won for us over the years.

Anne Bell
Victoria, British Columbia

Decoding the war

SIR – The story of Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park is very interesting, but it is only part of the story.

The origins of decoding can be found in the First World War, when wireless was in its infancy. Mata Hari, the Belgian courtesan and dancer, was caught by a wireless operator passing vital information to the Germans. She was tried and shot. Winston Churchill heard about the incident and encouraged the Armed Forces to set up wireless intercepting units.

My father was a railway telegraphist and a 1914 volunteer to the Army. The First World War ended and he came home safely. In 1938 he responded to the government’s appeal for civilian wireless enthusiasts. He was interviewed, signed the Official Secrets Act, and was accepted, becoming one of 1,600 top-secret civilian “Y” outworkers around the British Isles. Bletchley Park became top secret station “X”.

As a family we knew nothing of this. I remember hearing the Morse code sounds, wireless whistles and shushings coming from under the stairs and thinking it was Dad’s hobby.

M I Osbourne
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire

Sing it out

SIR – Aled Jones finds it “amazing” that in the Birmingham Symphony Hall the acoustics are so good that someone can be heard from the stage without the aid of a microphone (Guestlist, Seven, November 9).

Does he not know that properly trained singers don’t need a microphone, except perhaps in vast arenas?

Never judge a singer until you have heard him or her unamplified.

Alan Gallagher
Wallsend, Tyne and Wear

Don’t undervalue an arts education

SIR – Nicky Morgan suggests that those who study the humanities and arts will be disadvantaged for life.

If this point of view gains ground, schools and universities will reduce funding and resources for arts subjects and, within a short time, generations of expertise will be dissipated.

The Chinese government has identified art and design as an important focal point for the economy and education. Chinese families are now investing significant sums of money to send their artistically gifted children to British schools to study art and design subjects.

Lynne Taylor-Gooby
Principal, The Royal School
Haslemere, Surrey

War Museum cuts

SIR – Mike Clancy writes about the proposed cuts to services across the Imperial War Museum sites.

I am particularly concerned about plans to cut the formal learning department at IWM Duxford. This is the educational service that brought in 50,000 schoolchildren last year from all over the East of England, and beyond.

Thousands of children every week benefit from sessions with Duxford’s highly knowledgable, experienced and charismatic staff. These are the people who do what they do for the love of it, certainly not for any financial glory.

My grandchildren very much enjoyed learning at IWM Duxford. Those behind these changes to think again; losing this exceptional service would be a great loss to the nation.

Anne Collins
Hatfield, Hertfordshire

Stiff collars

Photos: ITV; REX; BBC

SIR – Your article about the revival of starched collars and their renewed popularity reminded me of my days as a junior banker in the Sixties and Seventies, when I would wear a starched collar every day.

The company that supplied the collars provided a cardboard box with a slip-in reversible address label. Each week I would send off my used collars and receive back the laundered ones within a few days. The service was excellent and always reliable.

John C Humphrey
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Getting twitchy

SIR – As a keen birdwatcher I was dismayed to see a picture spread of six British birds just above the headline “Labour ‘must apologise for migration’” (report, November 2).

Anthony Kaye

Irish Times:

Sir, – In recent years there has been a notable effort to encourage students to enrol in IT courses. John Cradden (“IT conversion courses: not all employers are converts”, November 11th) observes that many graduates of such courses are unlikely to find good jobs without additional experience and effort.

Clearly there is a gap between what employers are looking for and what the colleges are delivering. As someone who regularly interviews and make hiring decisions in the IT sector, I concur. The very large number of people who have “fallen” into successful IT careers having started out in finance, marketing, design, etc, is evidence that third-level qualifications are not essential.

IT courses tend to be diverse, touching relatively lightly on a broad range of topics, while most IT companies are specialists in particular technologies and business domains. Even IT courses that focus on particular industry sectors still tend to hedge their bets. While some larger companies may have the resources to turn generalists into specialists, most operate on lean margins and need new starters to hit the ground running. Much IT work is “service” based, in which IT companies provide technical expertise to other companies, and new starters who don’t know the ropes are very exposed in these circumstances. Someone who knows a particular product or area very well is much more valuable than one with a broad general knowledge. Early specialisation is vital in IT career development, and students should try to achieve professional certifications in specific technologies before finishing their academic courses.

Project work and placements are also key in developing a raw graduate into someone approaching a professional. The best graduates I have interviewed are those who have been involved in delivering a real project for a real customer, in many cases small projects for local charities, businesses or sporting organisations with which they have an association. Experience of the process of engaging with a customer, assessing requirements, and planning a solution that suits the available budget, skills and resources is just as important as being able to implement the technical solution. Colleges should develop partnerships with local organisations to allow students experience of delivering real projects. This could also give a boost to organisations that could not otherwise afford to develop IT systems. Ryanair’s first website was developed by students.

There has been much discussion in recent years of the need for higher-level maths in IT. Leaving Cert maths is a good “canary” subject, providing evidence that students have the ability to understand complex abstract principles and the dedication required to crack difficult problems. However, while most programming work requires excellent logical skills, outside of certain niches areas it requires very little maths. A lot of time can be wasted at third level in developing advanced mathematical skills that typically remain unused in the real world.

The emphasis on “hard IT” (maths and technical expertise) puts a lot of people off, supposedly women in particular. In fact, there are a very large number of people working in IT who will likely never write a line of code, instead using “soft” skills such as project planning and management. Pre-project engagements to elicit and document requirements, and to negotiate project scope and commercial details, are also very important, as are the skills to market and present. Courses that develop a mix of light technical, project management, business analysis and commercial sales and management skills, with involvement in real projects along the way, would attract a different type of candidate into the industry to fill these “soft IT” roles. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

A chara, – Ian Talbot of Chambers Ireland refers (November 1st) to the “promise of a new era of growth and prosperity for the citizens of the EU and the US” and the “potential increase in GDP in Ireland” as a result of the negotiations on the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The two words “promise” and “potential” are pertinent. I recall that it was the “promise” of jobs and investment that eventually convinced the Irish people to sign up for the Lisbon Treaty, arguably against their instincts and better judgement. We are still waiting for those jobs. However, on the same date that Mr Talbot’s letter was published in your paper, Ireland was feeling the effects of that decision as our voting weight in the EU was reduced as a result of our acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty, the same treaty in which we have also lost our right of veto in significant areas such as international trade.

I do agree with Mr Talbot’s assertion that TTIP does provide “potential” benefit for Ireland. A trade negotiation on this level, of course, has the potential to benefit both the EU and the US. The reality is, however, that there are also many potential drawbacks for areas such as agriculture, environment, workers’ rights and employment, which have been largely ignored by our Government and not explored in any great detail.

One of the most worrying aspects of the negotiations to date has been the secrecy in which they have been shrouded. The public only became aware of the mandate for the negotiations as a result of a leaked document. Indeed, the reference Mr Talbot made to the potential increase in GDP for Ireland is contained in a report commissioned by the Government on the economic assessment of TTIP on Ireland which, to date, has not been made public, although it appears that selective findings have been publicised. The reality is that we simply do not know what the consequences of this agreement will be.

What we do know, and has been generally accepted by all commentators on these talks, including the European Commission, is that TTIP will result in the “prolonged and substantial dislocation of EU workers”, with some suggestions of up to a million across the EU. What we also know is that, as it currently stands TTIP will result in the establishment of an external Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which operates external to the courts system and rule of law and gives investors the right to take legal action against member states for loss of revenue. This is the same mechanism by which tobacco giants are currently suing Australia over public health measures against smoking.

I agree with Mr Talbot that there does need to be a public debate on TTIP and what it means for Ireland, a debate in which all of our citizens participate fully with all of the relevant information, lest we are to sleepwalk, heads full of “promises” and “potential”, into an agreement which is not in our best interests and will have long-lasting consequences. – Is mise,


Carraig Mhachaire Rois,

Co Mhuineachain.

A chara, – I am part of a new generation of secondary teachers. We simply get passed from one school to another, with no chance of a permanent position. I have taught in 11 different schools in eight years. We are simply fillers and stopgaps for career breaks and maternity leaves. There is no chance of progression.

It does cause concern when I read that a high number of retired teachers are still teaching in secondary schools this year. This leaves newly qualified teachers with no opportunity to teach and develop their careers.

While I am forced to pay a fee to the Teaching Council of Ireland each year, they do nothing to look into this farce, hence the widespread view that the only thing they do for teachers is ask for their fee. The current system must be altered and a proper chance given to a new generation. – Is mise,


Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole believes we are becoming an ungovernable people (“Why the Irish political system can no longer guarantee stability”, Opinion & Analysis, November 11th).

I would suggest that we are simply repeating history. In the Clare Journal of 1838, there is an account of an attempt to implement the provisions of the recently passed Lighting and Cleansing Act in the town of Ennis.

This was supported by the clergy and the shopkeepers who saw it as a logical and advantageous move, and who were prepared to pay the extra tax required. It was vehemently opposed however by some who, in the words of the editor, “appealed to the prejudices and passions of the people, with unfounded statements”, and the proposal was defeated. Subsequent editions of the paper carried passionate letters on both sides of the argument until, finally, the editor called for “peace”. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Dr Maitiu Ó Faolain (November 13th) misses some of my point about same-sex marriage being “biologically impossible” when he overlooks that a consummated heterosexual marriage relationship has an inescapable and definitively constitutive biological dimension – considered as the science of life. Of course this dimension also applies to some other heterosexual relationships. And I freely accept that marriage considered as a cultural institution would properly be outside the scope of medical training. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – Recent correspondence on the issue of same-sex marriage has frequently focused on semantics, principally the meaning of the word “marriage”. Yet no-one so far has questioned what is meant by “sex” or indeed a “same-sex” couple. Although seemingly self-evident, this question merits some reflection.

Anatomical sex is technically a continuum, a truth quite evident, when considering that 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of children born in Ireland display some degree of visible sexual ambiguity. Intersex is the term used to describe people whose chromosomes or genitals do not allow them be distinctly identified as male or female.

Where thus should we draw the line between male and female? What constitutes a heterosexual couple? Under our current legislation, should someone with XXY chromosomes be allowed marry someone with XX chromosomes? Should someone born with XY chromosomes and Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, a condition resulting in a fully female external body, be prevented marrying a “normal” XY individual with male genitalia?

Nature doesn’t draw a line between male and female. We draw that line on nature. Introducing marriage equality for couples of every shade of sex and gender makes not only moral but also biological sense. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – One aspect of the reduction of funding for arts and culture as a result of the recession that has not received much notice is RTÉ’s cutting of its budget for drama.

Thomas Dennigan (November 13th) described Love/Hate as a replacement for The Riordans, Bracken and Glenroe. It is of course the excellent Fair City that replaced those shows. Written by Irish writers and acted by Irish actors, each of the four episodes per week of Fair City are viewed by five or six times as many Irish people as buy tickets for the Abbey Theatre in an entire year. Love/Hate is more of a successor to On Home Ground, Pure Mule, Proof, Single Handed, The Clinic, Raw – to name just a few – short series which return over a number of years. Brilliantly written and garnering more than one million viewers for many of its episodes, Love/Hate is a credit to all involved, and caught the imagination of Irish people to an extraordinary extent as well as generating considerable advertising income for RTÉ.

In endeavouring to address its serious financial problems, RTÉ seems to have abandoned its policy on drama and has cut back on its spending in this area more than on any other aspect of its programming. Between 2008 and 2102, according to its annual reports, RTÉ’s spending on indigenous programming fell by 28 per cent, but its spending on drama fell by nearly 50 per cent.

This is short-sighted and has a negative impact on the creative infrastructure necessary for great Irish television drama in the future.

Broadcasting is a more important part of our arts and culture infrastructure than we tend to acknowledge but, despite the success of Love/Hate, original Irish television drama is not well served by RTÉ’s current funding policies. – Yours, etc,


Writers Guild of Ireland,

Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Sir, – As a Catalan living in Ireland for many years, I would like to congratulate your newspaper for the excellent reporting of the present situation in Catalonia.

I was born and grew up in Barcelona during the time of Gen Franco’s dictatorship, a fact that undoubtedly has influenced my view of many things. At that time anything Catalan (except such things as the old traditional dress and a few folksongs) was viewed with suspicion and therefore had to be suppressed. Fortunately we have moved on, but it frightens and saddens me to see today’s Spanish government using some of the same methods that were used then, eg the constant use of threats and prohibitions instead of dialogue and compromise, the refusal to listen, the suspicion and the authoritarian attitude.

Has intransigence, whether in the political or private area, ever yielded any positive outcome? –Yours, etc,


Ballinteer, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Niall Gillespie’s assertion that Catalonia is a “colony” of Spain is ludicrous. Perhaps he is ignorant of what a colony actually is?

Catalans have full rights within Spain and a free vote in electing members to the national parliament. Catalonia is an autonomous community with more self-governance than probably any other region in Europe, with the exception of the Basque Country. Obviously I am referring to the Spanish Basque region since the French Basque region has no autonomy worth mentioning. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 01:02

First published: Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 01:02

A chara, – In welcoming the Lexicon, Dún Laoghaire’s new library, I look forward to the day when it is fully appreciated and cherished by all locals and visitors to the town. For over 100 years, we have learned to love and use our Carnegie library buildings, bequeathed to the State by the Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Recently the Carnegie Blackrock building was refurbished, winning an international award for the excellence of the finished project.

Unlike Fergal McLoughlin (November 14th) I welcome the contemporary nature of the Lexicon. I look forward to it receiving prizes too, as a world-class building, housing a library, cultural venue and auditorium to be used, visited and loved by all us citizens. – Is mise,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would like to echo the words of gratitude of the mayor of Concepcion Milliard Villanueva (November 10th) offered to the Irish people for their generous response to Typhoon Haiyan. This terrible natural disaster once again demonstrated the tremendous capacity of Irish people to empathise with children in times of crisis. Irish people were again amongst the most generous per capita donors in the world.

In the days after the typhoon, I flew to Tacloban City to oversee Unicef’s emergency response. It is hard to convey the scenes of devastation I witnessed. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed up to 90 per cent of the hospitals, schools and homes in its path. My most abiding memory is the stench of death in the air. The tragic consequences of this violent natural disaster will haunt me for a lifetime.

In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, Unicef initiated its highest level of emergency response, mobilising our global resources and personnel to the region. Thanks to the generosity of our loyal supporters around the country, we raised €1.2 million to meet the immediate, life-saving needs of children. In the past year, 1.3 million children have been vaccinated, 1.3 million people have access to safe drinking water and almost 625,000 children received education materials.

Without the generosity of our Irish supporters, this work would not be possible. – Yours, etc,


Executive Director,

Unicef Ireland,

33 Lower Ormond Quay,

Dublin 1.

Irish Independent:

People are angry and anger is an ugly emotion which must be handled with great care; it can be constructive or destructive depending on how it is channelled. The treatment of Joan Burton by the mob was an example of how anger can become a shameful, disgraceful thing.

Ms Burton is a senior player in a democratically elected government. Will you dangerous fools who rage against the wind and shake your fists against the sky think for a moment about where you have come from? It may no longer be PC to mention the fact, but people fought and died so that we could choose our own government. The first members of the Dail carried guns inside their trench coats for protection, such were the levels of fear and intimidation.

Surely to God we have moved on, we are justly proud of the legacy of our unarmed gardai. If you want to protest you do so with right on your side. If you violate the rights of another individual then you are not a democratic protester. Compare the decency and dignity of Donna Hartnett, who articulated the pain and despair she was enduring, with the antics of those who trapped the Tanaiste in her car. Ms Hartnett did not threaten anyone, though she has been stretched to breaking point. She picked up a pen, not a rock, and put her thoughts into the public domain and what might have been a drop in the ocean became a wave.

Last week, Mary Lou McDonald stamped her foot in the Dail and flouted democracy for hours in a fit of petulance. Was this protest about water charges, or was it a distraction from the skeletons Sinn Fein still has in its closet?

When you enter politics you sign on to play by the rules. Peaceful, legitimate protest is an absolute right but taking away the liberty of another is an insult to democracy and a slur on the struggle of all those who sacrificed themselves in the name of freedom.

T G O’Brien

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin


TDs’ expenses claims

Your article on TDs’ expenses (Irish Independent, November 15) states: “The system was remodelled in 2010 in an effort to safeguard against potential abuses and make it more transparent.”

Yes, the system was remodelled in 2010 – by our politicians and not by an independent body – and became worse than before. The pre-2010 system had its faults but at least all expenses were subject to the FOI Acts and expenses were claimed in arrears after being actually incurred.

The new system excluded the Public Representation Allowance (PRA) from the FOI Acts and only 10pc of members are subject to the audit of these expenses. It is relevant to note that Ivor Callely was caught defrauding the system following a FOI request made by the media under the pre-2010 system.

Under the other strand of the 2010 system, the Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA), politicians are paid a monthly round figure allowance based on where they live, and at the end of the year self-certify that they spent their travel money on travel.

Fortunately, these forms are available under FOI. Now, in any normal organisation, accounting staff receiving such forms would at a minimum scrutinise them for obvious discrepancies. However, our politicians’ self-certifying forms are clearly just filed.

All other workers pay their own travel costs. If an employer subsidises travel costs there are tax implications. Not so with our politicians, but then, they make the rules.

Enid O’Dowd FCA

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

You opened your editorial on Saturday saying politicians must wonder why their standing with the public is so low. I doubt that very much. When they see another negative portrayal of the cost of politics in your newspaper, they need hardly wonder at all.

Clearly, it’s a waste of time asking that the pay and allowances to politicians for doing the important but unpopular job they are elected to do be presented fairly in the media. When one sees a trumped-up headline like ‘TDs expenses average €147,000′, one should know the standard of journalism one is dealing with.

For instance, despite repeatedly explaining to journalists that TDs get an annual (not monthly) allowance for travel and accommodation costs, some cannot resist the lazy temptation to suggest that it is a monthly allowance, so that they can then suggest that TDs get expenses for the month of August when the Dail doesn’t sit.

They don’t. They get an annual payment based on annual attendance but sure, why bother explaining it again? The fact that TDs have incurred multiple pay cuts, including all public sector pay cuts, as well as a cut in allowances, was naturally also omitted from your spread last Saturday. But of course it was.

As I had stated to your reporter, grossing-up nearly four years’ costs and allowances and creating the perennial simplistic league table of allowances is easy, dramatic and might even sell a few extra papers on the back of stoking some more outrage, but it isn’t really informative and doesn’t represent real analysis. Nor does it capture the real story of TDs commuting long distances or the genuine demand that exists from the electorate for constituency work, especially in rural Ireland.

Of course, this letter is relatively pointless, the damage is done and your readership will continue to be misinformed on a subject that actually does deserve expert and informed analysis and debate.

Mark Mulqueen

Head of Communications

Houses of the Oireachtas

Leinster House

Dublin 2


NCT backlogs unfair on drivers

I understand that from December, three penalty points will be imposed upon a driver of a car which has not passed the required NCT. In some areas one may have to wait two months or more booking a test, therefore it seems very unfair that a driver could be penalised for what is a failure to provide reasonable facilities for timely testing.

No doubt, insurance companies will be pleased to increase the premium, even though the car might be entirely roadworthy. May I suggest that it should be a defence for the driver to produce evidence that he or she has booked a test?

Anthony W Scott

Tramore, Co Waterford


One-sided man of the match

At the end of last Saturday’s rugby international between Scotland and New Zealand, the winner of the ‘man of the match’ award was announced on BBC and appropriately went to a player on the winning All Blacks side.

The previous night, at the conclusion of the Scotland v Republic of Ireland Euro 2016 qualifier, a member of the Irish side which performed so moderately was named for a similar accolade.

But surely the ‘man of the match’ award should go to the best player in the game?

Please explain yourselves, RTE!

Eric Rice

Trim Road, Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent


November 16, 2014

16 November 2014 Walking

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to the Co op and post office,

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Lady Wardington was a model who was considered ‘too beautiful for the BBC’, and later compiled the Superhints series of books

Lady Wardington with Sir Malcolm Sargent (left) and Alec Guinness

Lady Wardington with Sir Malcolm Sargent (left) and Alec Guinness

5:41PM GMT 14 Nov 2014


Lady Wardington, who has died aged 87, was a 1950s cover girl of striking beauty, the founder of a financial management course for women, and the compiler of a series of “Superhints” handbooks — compendiums of ideas “personal, perspicacious and practical” — which she published to raise money for her local hospice.

An only child, she was born Margaret Audrey White on November 2 1927 in Bradford. Her father, a commercial traveller, left his family when Audrey was young and she was brought up by her mother, Eva, in north London, where they sat out the Blitz with their cat, Luftwaffe.

Audrey attended Henrietta Barnett School in Finchley, taking her school certificate exams in the middle of the first doodlebug raids. The girls were allowed to get under their desks if one cut out overhead, at which point they would often try to whisper the answers as they hid.

She left school aged 16 and found a job at the Elizabeth Arden salon in Bond Street as general dogsbody to the woman giving facial treatments. There she was spotted by one of the salon’s clients, Phyllis Digby-Morton, the editor of Woman and Beauty, who asked her if she would like to have her photograph taken for the magazine. Audrey’s manager grudgingly allowed her the afternoon off on condition that she would not mention the fact she worked at the salon.

At the suggestion of the photographer at the session she became a professional model. Described by one journalistic admirer as a “raving beauty … with a smile as fresh as spring and the playful eye of a puppy”, Audrey White became a well-known face in the newspapers of the early 1950s, appearing as a bride in a series of National Savings posters and taking small parts in a handful of films.

In 1951 she hit the headlines when the BBC refused to give her a job as a stand-in television announcer in case her loveliness “alarmed timid men from Wigan and country districts”. “Too beautiful for the BBC!” ran a banner headline. But the BBC was right, argued one commentator: “Could you watch Miss White taking about depressions over Iceland and absorb what she was saying?”

Audrey White accepted defeat gracefully: “I don’t want to scare any timid male viewers,” she declared.

Lady Wardington: ‘too beautiful for the BBC’

Audrey dated the future Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee and the actor Anthony Steele (their romance ended when she fled from a taxi in which he had drunkenly escorted her home, as he got out to pay on the other side). In 1953 she married the theatrical impresario and former racing driver Jack Dunfee, one of the famous “Bentley Boys”, 25 years her senior. “Mrs Jack Dunfee leaves London airport for a week’s holiday in the South of France,” ran a typical newspaper report. “She wears a mushroom-coloured outfit.”

The following year she was made fashion editor of Housewife magazine, after meeting the magazine’s managing editor, Marcus Morris (a former vicar turned “insatiable womaniser”, by her account) at a cocktail party. She worked for six years on Housewife and for two years on the magazine Go.

By this time her marriage had broken down, and in 1964 she married her second husband, Christopher Henry Beaumont (“Bic”) Pease, the 2nd Lord Wardington, a stockbroker and noted bibliophile, with whom she adopted three children.

At their Oxfordshire home, Wardington Manor, a substantial medieval-Jacobean house near Banbury, she and her husband worked together to embellish the garden and supported numerous charities, Lady Wardington helping to fight the closure of the village school, getting involved in local clubs and activities and delivering Meals on Wheels.

As her husband became increasingly involved in the world of rare books, the Wardingtons were enthusiastic attendees at international congresses and colloquia of the Association Internationale de Bibliophilie in continental Europe.

When her husband suffered a heart attack in his late forties, Lady Wardington was so shocked to realise how little she knew about money that she set up a financial management course for women. “I called it Capital and Savings Handling [CASH],” she recalled. “It was about savings and pensions and the stock market, and was aimed specifically at women. It was quite a success.” She ran the course for eight years until the Equal Opportunities Commission warned her it might take action if she continued.

Lady Wardington, wife of the 2nd Lord Wardington

She was moved to start compiling her Superhints books in 1991, when a former secretary was dying of cancer in a hospice. At that time, funds were being raised in Banbury for the Katherine House Hospice. “I wanted to help them raise money and so, being a great corner-cutter, I hit on the idea of these Superhints books,” Lady Wardington recalled. “I simply wrote to about 3,000 people, asking them to donate a hint.”

First came Superhints; then Superhints for Cooks; then Superhints for Gardeners; and finally Superhints for Life. A large proportion of her contributors were titled, and their “hints” were often rather less practical than they were revealing of their authors.

The best way to pacify an angry child, suggested Lady Dashwood, was to “whisper gently into his ear and he will stop crying to hear what you are saying. This is also 100 per cent effective with husbands.” Lady Cobbold commended paper knickers because “it saves washing and they are good for lighting the fire”. Lord Hanson cautioned readers never to “stand up in the bath without pulling the plug out first”. Princess Margaret’s solution to a red wine spill on the carpet — sloshing white wine on it to remove the stain — perhaps proved only that she had never had to do it herself.

The Wardingtons’ happy life at Wardington Manor came to an end in April 2004 when a devastating electrical fire swept through one of the two wings of the house. They were abroad on holiday, but their daughter Helen, with the aid of villagers, managed a dramatic rescue of Lord Wardington’s priceless collection of books, including volumes containing some 60,000 maps produced between the 15th century and the present day. The collection was saved intact and unharmed. The house, however, was gutted.

Stoic in the face of disaster, the Wardingtons embarked on a full-scale repair, for which a model Wardington had made as a boy proved a useful guide. But Lord Wardington died the following year, his health possibly affected by the shock, and although work on the house was well advanced by his death, Lady Wardington decided to sell the manor and to live in a smaller house in the village.

She is survived by her son and two daughters.

Lady Wardington, born November 2 1927, died November 8 2014


British Labour Leader Miliband speech Party politics have become too presidential, say some, as controversy continues over Ed Miliband’s leadership of Labour. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

British politics has become too presidential with far too much emphasis on individual  party leaders instead of policy (“Miliband in new crisis as senior MPs back leadership change”, News)).

Labour’s problems stem from urging their leader to stick to the centre ground for fear of frightening floating voters with too much radicalism at a time when the centre has been so imploded by austerity that the old two-party game is over.

The Scottish referendum is just the start of irreversible progress towards a new federal constitution  that the Tories cannot stem, either with their undemocratic call for English votes on English issues, when there are no such issues that will not affect Scotland and Wales; or with one elected mayor for Manchester with a budget well below the level of funding cut by devolving austerity to local councils in England and Wales in a classic divide-and-rule manoeuvre.

The real Tory agenda is not deficit reduction, otherwise they would not have wasted billions on needless NHS reorganisation and on their botched welfare “reforms”.

The only way to prevent this is for Labour to make common cause with Liberal Democrats, who have always been consistent on the need for constitutional and electoral reform; they must make clear they will have no truck with a Tory party that has lurched so far to the right

Margaret Phelps


Vale of Glamorgan

Daniel Boffey was probably right when he wrote: “The headlines (relating to the Labour leadership) are distracting from significant problems currently facing David Cameron.”

They certainly seem to have distracted him and his colleagues on Sunday’s paper from writing  about Mr Osborne’s dissimulation with regards to the UK’s payments to  the EU. In the Observer this important issue was conspicuous by its absence.

However, this edition of the paper did devote the title page and four other pages to a leadership struggle in the Labour party in which the principal heir has specifically refused to stand now or ever.

All of this was inspired by some gutless wonders so confident in their stance that they were afraid to express their views openly.

Paul Hewitson


I turn the page from Ed Miliband and the Labour party’s squabbling and read that carers for vulnerable disabled people have – after 90 days of strikes with support from the Unite union – done a deal with the privatised Care UK that will see their wages “edging towards the living wage” (“After 90 days of strikes, Care UK workers celebrate new pay deal”, News). And Labour’s shadow ministers are muttering about Miliband instead of fighting about issues they can win an election on? Now that makes me despair.

David Reed

London NW3

Labour’s lack of credibility is far more serious than its leadership.

Thanks to our crazy electoral system, rather than fighting the Rochester and Strood byelection to win the seat with a higher turnout and divided rightwing vote at the next general election, Labour have decided to fight on as narrow a front as possible.

Locally in Chipping Barnet, having in May won 11 out of 21 council seats, we have not seen a single leaflet introducing their prospective parliamentary candidate and so we have no reason to consider voting tactically .

Such campaigning would give their supporters hope and stretch Tory resources.  Without this, Labour will fail to make many gains and not just in Scotland risk being outflanked.

David Nowell   

New Barnet, Herts

Big blue truck. Isolated over white. Transport links need to be improved all over Britain. Photograph: Alamy

Improving transport is not a zero-sum game of investment in the north at the expense of investment elsewhere (“Wherever you build new infrastructure… build it in the north”, News). Investment is actually needed by cities across the country to drive economic growth.  These economic benefits can only be realised if cities have greater financial flexibility. Investment should be evaluated on the strength of economic payback through the creation of jobs, housing and business growth. For example, improvements to London’s transport and the construction of Crossrail support almost 58,000 jobs and apprenticeships outside the capital.

The current system of funding is too centralised. Just 5% of taxes raised in Britain are controlled by cities themselves, compared to 30% in Germany. This is not a question of investment in the north versus the south. We need the flexibility to do both.

Sir Peter Hendy

Transport commissioner

London SW1

Our dubious dependencies

As well as hammering Jean-Claude Juncker and Enda Kenny, shouldn’t we also be looking at Britain’s own dubious dependencies, such as the “British” Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Isle of Man (“Ireland insists it can still be hi-tech hub despite axing ‘double Irish’ loophole”, News)? Is Ed Miliband so scared of not seeming “business friendly” that he doesn’t press David Cameron about these three tax havens. Something for him to do when he discovers his “inner radical”?

Ian Goodacre

Sevenoaks, Kent

Assisted dying is unacceptable

Dr Kailash Chand’s arguments in favour of the assisted dying bill are, at best, confused (“Assisted dying will be made legal in UK ‘within two years’”, News). He attempts to equate physician-assisted suicide, which is what this bill proposes, with dignity in dying, which is an entirely different concept.

He also shows scant respect for his colleagues if he thinks that around 80% of them would oppose this bill publicly while privately supporting it. If this bill becomes law, no judicial oversight could ever provide a safeguard for vulnerable people (or “unnecessary life”, as Chand chillingly puts it) implicitly offered a choice of ending their lives if they felt they were a burden on others.As deputy chair of the BMA, Chand must be aware of the possibility of an underfunded NHS hiving off or withdrawing funding for palliative care if a cheaper alternative was available. No change in the law is the only option.

Dr Barry Cullen

Fareham, Hants

True love ignores the years

In 1982, I met my second husband on an anti-apartheid demonstration. He was a single, vegetarian, academic of 29. I was a 42-year-old divorcee, a parent of three teenage children and carnivore (“I find older women attractive. I decided that youth doesn’t stop at 30”, last week).

After a few months, we decided to live together and eventually get married. Our wedding was the best Labour party meeting that I and my comrades ever attended. Our honeymoon was spent at a grim hotel on the M62 where I was being grilled by media hacks in preparation for the European elections in 1984.

When he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 54 some eight years ago, the day after I had been cleared of cancer, my friends witnessed my utter devastation. All I can say is those near-24 years were the happiest and most wonderful I have ever experienced.

Yes, there were difficult times, which were not helped by people asking us stupid questions such as: “Is he your toyboy?”, a term I loathe. Even worse was: “Is he your son?”. I say “good luck”  to anyone facing a relationship with an age difference, but isn’t it sad that the adverse comments are usually in relation to an older woman and younger man?

Shirley Haines-Cooke


Speed up on the speed cuts

Local authorities try to look at three years’ worth of data before deciding on the impact of 20mph (“Limitations of speed limits”, Letters). Road accidents will continue to happen, whoever is at fault, but mistakes can be designed out of the system as far as possible. Cutting speed is a simple and cost-effective measure but on its own may not be enough. Other solutions, such as infrastructure, crossings, segregated facilities for cyclists and road design are also key factors.

The suggestion that speed restrictions should only be implemented in certain “sensitive” areas (around schools, near to hospitals) ignores the fact that all our streets are thoroughfares to somewhere else and used by everyone, including vulnerable people. All the evidence shows that reduced speed works much better on a community or borough basis, otherwise it is more confusing for pedestrians and drivers alike and is more costly.  To suggest that lower speed limits may actually cause more harm through drivers’ frustration is to imply that anything that holds up a driver is wrong.

Too often missing from this debate are the many public health benefits of introducing slower speed, which can lead to an increase in cycling and walking, reduced obesity, improved air quality and adapting our public spaces for an ageing population.

Monica Saunders


A handout sketch of Rosetta lander superimposed on image of the comet surface Sketch of the Rosetta lander superimposed on an image of the comet surface near the estimated point of touchdown. Photograph: European Space Agency/Getty Images

The earthbound examples of human endeavour in your editorial (A triumph for human imagination and ingenuity, 13 November) did not mention the programme of manned moon landings, which took place more than 40 years ago. With hindsight, this was perhaps the last hurrah for the idea that the conquest of space was simply an extension of terrestrial exploration. Space is too big, the distances too far, the journey times too long and the costs of maintaining a human-friendly habitat too vast for the human exploration of space. What the Rosetta mission has so successfully done is to put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that only human explorers can offer a feasible solution to the problem of making future extraterrestrial discoveries.
Ray Perham
Ilford, Essex

• We have landers on Mars and now on a comet, all adverts for the amazing power of science and technology. Yet some of us in the scientific community are disappointed that these landers are not actually looking for life. The world’s space agencies have become fixated on searching for the “building blocks of life”. What the public (ie taxpayers) really wants to now is – does life itself exist in space? Like Nasa, the European Space Agency has presented us with an amazing achievement and at the same time an incredible missed opportunity.
Milton Wainwright
Professor of astrobiology, Sheffield University

• Your editorial salutes the human imagination and ingenuity of the Rosetta mission scientists, which is undoubtedly a great achievement. The vocabulary you use, however, startled me. Was the landing of a bit of high tech on a rock on a “heroic scale”? Can that bit of high tech be heroic? It isn’t human, like Magellan or Edmund Hilary. Do the scientists have “courage” in “thinking the unthinkable”, or perhaps delusional fantasy? The commander of the International Space Station tweeted that the lander was “poised to rewrite what we know about ourselves” (Report, 13 November). Will it really? I am frankly alarmed at such hyperbolic nonsense.

It seems to me that, as with Richard Branson’s narcissistic space-tourism project, the shades of Icarus and Ozymandias might give us pause. In The Advancement of Learning, Francis Bacon hoped that new inventions would be applied to relieving mankind’s misery and needs.

What a waste of intellectual, scientific and technological expertise this space thing is. Science has lost its purpose and its way, and all we can do is gawp at it.
Frank Grace
Ipswich, Suffolk

• Not only is the Rosetta mission a superb scientific achievement, but its leading scientist, Jean-Pierre Bibring, has given us two comments worth bearing in mind for more mundane day-to-day living back on Earth (One giant heartstopper, 14 November). Referring to Philae’s present precarious position on the comet, he says: “What’s really impressive here is not the degree of failure but the degree of success,” and “We are running against the clock. Don’t put the emphasis on failure – it is gorgeous where we are.”
Norah Wagon
Langport, Somerset

• A small step for mankind, and a very large step for the European community. No US help, no Russian help, just a combined effort by the 20 member states of the European Space Agency. What a symbol! United, we’re a force. Divided, we’re a bunch of petty, squabbling children. Let the word go out: a united Europe matters.
Bernard Besserglik
Pantin, France

• “We are there … we are on the comet” (Report, 13 November), but we are also here, on the planet, where £1bn could have been so much better spent, combating climate change, so that the human race could continue to live here.
David Bradnack

• The European Space Agency has spent £1bn to learn something about how we got here in the first place. Well, we are here, we’ve been here a while, and we have some pretty pressing problems. Over the past week, debate has taken place in your pages about the aetiology, treatment and reporting of serious mental disorder, and if nothing else has reflected the scandalous underfunding of research – especially the necessary interdisciplinary research – in this area. Right next to the story of the Philae lander, you report that the Treasury has gained a £1.1bn windfall from fines imposed on banks for rigging the foreign currency markets (Report, 13 November), but hasn’t decided how to spend it yet. I have a suggestion – and it ain’t rocket science.
Professor David C Sanders

• In your otherwise excellent account and photographs of the Philae landing, you failed to mention the comet’s size. I am forced to guess. The size of Wales? Half of Wales? Just a little bit of Wales? Wales and some more?
Barbara Kirby
Hoylake, Merseyside

Hindley prison, young offenders Hindley prison, a young offenders’ institution in Wigan. Photograph: A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy/Alamy

I have visited several youth prisons in Spain to explore models for urgently needed reforms in Britain (Tough love, Weekend, 8 November). Inside the prison gates in Spain, almost all the adults in sight are professionally qualified teachers, whose primary purpose is to prepare the children for crime-free adulthood, acceptance by their families and readmission to their local schools, preferably even before final discharge from custody.

What a contrast to Britain, with its under-trained and under-paid prison officers and misguided focus. The system here fails most young offenders as well as the wider community, with 73% being reconvicted within 12 months of discharge. In Spain it is a fraction of this.

Despite the examples of good and successful practice in many EU member states, I am ashamed to say that the Ministry of Justice and Youth Justice Board plan to build a giant, 600-place prison or “secure college” in the East Midlands, at which most of the children will be detained hundreds of miles from home. Do they never learn?
John Plummer

• Paul McDowell’s position as the chief inspector of probation is unsustainable (Grayling pledge over probation conflict of interest fears). His inspectorate is charged with assessing the performance of Sodexo in its new role of supervising thousands of offenders. He may send in inspectors other than himself to assess the performance of his wife’s company, but the final report on Sodexo is the chief inspector’s, just as when Nick Hardwick reports on a prison inspection. He cannot escape the charge of personal interest, whatever the outcome of a Sodexo inspection.

Grayling needs to be squeaky-clean at the outset of these fundamental changes in managing offenders; letting McDowell remain in post looks like an early own goal of his own making.
John Harding


It was revealed in your newspaper (9 November) that some Jewish supporters were refusing to donate to party funds because of the party’s Israel-Palestine policy. As I understand it Labour’s policy is to support the continued existence of Israel and its right to defend itself, but to oppose the continued persecution of Palestinians in their own land, such as roads on which they are not allowed to travel, theft of their land and homes, and harassment by illegal settlers. If I understand that rightly, then I am more encouraged to vote Labour, even though we will have to struggle along without Maureen Lipman.

Peter Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire

The religious financial donor who declares he does not want to “see Mr Miliband in Downing Street” illustrates the reason for supporting Miliband all the way. Miliband is a democrat, above price, and who should be sent to Downing Street by democrats and not donors. The religious donor who cannot accept the authority of a democratic party must consider joining the political party where power and authority, responsibility and justice, are bought and sold.

Miles Secker

Heckington, Lincolnshire

The story claiming that “Jewish donors and supporters” are “deserting” the Labour Party invokes a largely mythical British “Jewish community” supposedly united in lockstep support of any policy undertaken by the Israeli state. As a British Jew myself, I can assure you that – thankfully – no such uncritical endorsement exists of Israel’s illegal aggression in Palestine or its institutionalised racism to Arab-Israeli citizens. British Jewry is a diverse constituency ranging from ultra-Orthodox communities to secular leftists like myself, with a large middle ground whose interest in Israel is inevitably intense but whose attitudes predictably diverge widely.

Barry Langford

via email

Ellen E Jones should stop feeling guilty for being grammar-school educated (9 November): it was her parents’ decision and it is perfectly honourable to use educational advantage to better oneself. The important thing is how we use our advantage. Do we just perpetuate a system that benefits the few, or do we use our influence to improve the lot of the many?

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

It is a pity that DJ Taylor chose to take a cheap swipe at those who wish to remove religion from Remembrance Day, especially as he begins his piece describing a good and godless example of such an event (9 November).

The Service of Remembrance is an act of worship in the Christian tradition, little understood by, and alien to, most of the people who join together on a Sunday in November to remember friends, family and fallen comrades, and to give communal thanks for their sacrifice. The most meaningful and moving parts of the ceremony, the laying of the wreaths, the Last Post and the reading from Binyon’s “The Fallen”, are not religious at all. The “service” element of the occasion, I believe, does not serve the purpose of the day, but rather hinders it.

Roger Moorhouse

Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Rodric Braithwaite mentions “Margaret Thatcher and the Americans” encouraging Solidarity, but how could he possibly not mention the overt encouragement given by John-Paul II to Lech Walesa? (“The wall fell because of Gorbachev”, 9 November.) Without the influence exerted by John-Paul, Communism in Poland would not have fallen when it did and the Berlin Wall would have stood for a little longer.

Rev David Clemens

Saffron Walden, Essex

Matthew Engel’s Round England Quiz (9 November) held Shropshire the only county without a direct train service to London… news to Isle of Wight travellers I’m sure!

M L Hunter

Pewsey, Wiltshire


The celebration of British beauty spots such as Lindisfarne must be balanced against the needs of country-dwellers The celebration of British beauty spots such as Lindisfarne must be balanced against the needs of country-dwellers (John Woodworth/Getty)

Preserving countryside in aspic is no help to us who live there

THE plan of Sir Simon Jenkins, the former chairman of the National Trust, for listing the countryside reveals his London-centric, urbanised view of our rural areas, a position shared by all too many of our influential town-dwellers and pseudo-country-dwellers (“PM ‘has wrecked beautiful Britain’”, News, last week).

The countryside is not a leisure facility for the benefit of towns and cities. People who live and work here also suffer from a lack of affordable housing, a problem partly caused by our urban compatriots wishing to move out of cities and now seeking to preserve our working and living space in aspic.

The countryside needs to respond to today’s needs. A small increase in homes in our villages would have an enormous impact on the nation’s housing supply, while contributing to the survival of rural communities and their much depleted services. I can only assume Jenkins bases his proposal on his experience with the National Trust — another lover of aspic.
James Weld
Wareham, Dorset


It was very heartening to read Jenkins’s comments on the ruinous effect the government is having on the countryside. I do not see that those of us who value green spaces can vote for any of the main parties.

It can only be hoped that the coalition hears what he is saying. It should be made extremely difficult to build on greenfield sites, whether or not they are of exceptional beauty. Developers need to be restrained for the sake of future generations. We should be creating green areas, for air quality and all our wellbeing.
Cynthia Purkiss
Eltham, London


Countryside protection is at the heart of what we are doing to reform planning. Our nation is still largely countryside, often beautifully so. This is why we have safeguarded protections for the green belt in England, so it can continue to offer a strong defence against urban sprawl, as well as safeguarding national parks and other designated rural land.

And we have shifted power from Whitehall and the town hall to local people, so councils can determine through local plans where new homes should and shouldn’t go. We are proud to be building more homes but in a way that recognises the importance of protecting the environment.
Brandon Lewis
Housing and Planning Minister


When the Brecon Beacons national park planning guidance note declares that the countryside is “a place with no potential to accommodate any level of growth”, we should be wary of heeding calls for any further restrictions on appropriate development of rural areas.
Rob Yorke

Stop dithering over grammar schools

LAST week the home secretary, Theresa May, an alleged aspirant for the Tory party leadership, issued a statement in support of more grammar school places. However, an aide quickly made clear that her support was limited to a satellite extension to a grammar school in her own constituency and was not of national application.

Boris Johnson, another leadership aspirant, has also made vague rumblings of support, but when invited by the National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA) to identify with a proposed campaign for a new grammar school in a London borough, his response was obfuscation and to wish the project every success.

The Conservative party’s volte-face on grammar schools under David Cameron has not been acceptable to many in parliament and the constituencies. Now that Ukip has made it an electoral issue, the support of these elements might prove crucial in any leadership contest. As a result, an early positional marker — even if equivocal — might be important.

Nigel Farage may be ahead of the game with his unequivocal support for selective education as a matter of parental choice and his demand for a grammar school in every town. The embargo on new grammar schools must be removed.
Robert McCartney, Chairman, NGSA; Professor Colin Lawson; Steve Backley; Nick Catlin; Samantha Murray; Chris Woodhead

Remembering fallen from the other side

IS IT not time to rethink how we remember the First World War (“Lest we forget, there’s a war memorial even finer than this field of poppies”, News, last week)? Should we not have compassion for the thousands of German soldiers — also sons, fathers and brothers — who were killed by our own? We honour our dead as heroes and forget that the people they killed also left grieving families.
Vic Brown
Morpeth, Northumberland


The Irish ambassador Daniel Mulhall’s presence at the Cenotaph this year was very welcome: a timely and grown-up gesture of reconciliation as well as fitting remembrance of the huge numbers of Irishmen who served in the British armed forces.

Perhaps one day we will include those such as the Poles and other eastern Europeans. The subsequent integration into British society of those who survived and stayed on suggests that anxiety over European migration may be exaggerated.
Dame Denise Holt


Like Sheila Hutton, the nurse who discovered a Great War medal in a field (“‘Disillusioned’ soldier’s medal found”, News, last week), I found a 1914-15 Star medal in my garden. The inscription on the back of it is Gunner GH Lowe 774 RFA.

Internet searches unfortunately yielded only a copy of his medal index page showing that he received the Star, British and Victory medals and that he served in western France and was discharged on July 17, 1916.
Liz Lacey
Bramber, West Sussex


I agree with the author Michael Morpurgo that every schoolchild in the UK should be given the opportunity to visit battlefields and museums in Belgium and France (“Let every school saddle up for a war course”, News Review, last week). His description of an exuberant school party becoming quietly absorbed in the task of seeking the grave of Private Peaceful at a cemetery near Ypres was heartening.

Sadly, however, on a battlefield tour earlier this year I witnessed a group of English schoolgirls, who were on a trip to a restored British trench, shouting, taking selfies and showing no respect to other visitors wishing to reflect quietly on the site of the deaths of our nation’s soldiers.
Elaine Milan
Epping, Essex


My thanks to the Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, whose anger over the restaurant review of Spring (“Unpalatable criticism”, Letters, last week) by Camilla Long drew my attention to the critic’s tour-de-force dissection of the venue. I expect more letters will follow, but take no notice — indeed, long live Long. The most engaging of The Sunday Times’s scribes, she follows a proud and fearless tradition.
Herbie Knott
Weobley, Herefordshire


Women are not freely offered to businessmen in Hong Kong alone (“Drugs, drink and girls on tap in Asia’s Wild West”, Focus, last week). Once, my husband, my young son and I were at a booking desk in a family shopping area buying tickets for the hovercraft to Macau together with an overnight stay in a hotel. A brochure was pushed in front of us from which to choose a woman — or women — to visit us in our room that night. Our teenage son’s eyebrows shot up, but we declined.
Gloria Gillott


I sit in a magistrates’ court in London, and although cutting legal aid may appear to save money, it costs a great deal more in court time (“I cheered legal aid reform but now it can rob parents of their child”, Camilla Cavendish, Comment, last week). We are instructed to help an undefended defendant as much as possible, which takes time. We often have to wait while they consult the duty solicitor, and cases frequently have to be adjourned because the defendant has not had proper disclosure from the Crown Prosecution Service. When such factors are taken into account, I suspect these so-called cuts are actually costing rather than saving money.
Alexandra Kingston


Cavendish is right to state that the bluntest cuts in family law should be reversed. This is an equalities issue too. It is not impossible for a father to represent himself in most circumstances if his case is: “I want to see my kids.” It is different for the financially disempowered mothers, who are now expected to bring cases to court with technical, legal and practical challenges that can vex qualified lawyers. The so-far hidden statistics are the minimal costs to the public purse, as funding is only a loan, not a grant, and the fact that family lawyers settle 95% of these cases without a final hearing.
Caroline Bowden
Anthony Gold Mediation
London SE1


In assuming that the Muslim 5% of the population is more electorally significant for Ed Miliband than the less than 1% of Jewish voters, your correspondent Mike Newton overlooks the key fact that the vast majority of Muslims live in safe Labour seats (“Lipman misses her cue on Ed Miliband”, Letters, last week). As a result, of the 20 seats with the highest percentage of Muslims, only one is on Labour’s 106-seat “battleground” target list. Of the 20 with the highest Jewish percentage, five are on the list.
David Cohen
London NW3


I am astonished that Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute (“Carbon date”, Letters, last week), or anybody else for that matter, can take seriously the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that precautions to combat global warming need to be taken within 16 years. This is the blink of an eye in climate terms and the IPCC’s prognostications have proved in the past to be unreliable.
Neil Stuart
Keswick, Cumbria


Your story “Top graduates to pour into failing schools” (News, last week) appears perversely to celebrate graduates with just six weeks’ experience. Imagine running the same article about, say, nurses, paramedics or electricians. Teaching is a skilled job. A recent BBC series showed how hard it is for new entrants, with many not lasting the course.
Professor David Oliver
Sulhamstead, Berkshire


When I joined the police service in 1972 my shirts all had detachable collars that I duly starched and ironed (India Knight, Comment, November 2). However, I cannot say I liked them. They made one’s neck sore and clearly the message was that the shirt itself was intended to be worn for more than just one day. Softer collars and a daily hygienic wash get my vote any day.
Linda Hawkins
By email


I never fail to be amazed that columnists such as Rod Liddle appear to believe that migration is a one-way process into Britain (“Sure, mate, if your beer mat sums say immigration is fab . . .”, Comment, last week). Where did the 1.5m Britons who live and work in other EU states come from? Where did the 5.5m British-born citizens who live worldwide come from? Are they the imaginings of yet another academic study by people who may have strange-sounding foreign names and don’t fit in with Liddle’s own particular paranoid inclinations?
John Belcher
Coleford, Gloucestershire

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times

Corrections and clarifications

The vessel portrayed in the article “‘Negro’ discreetly cut from war headstone” (News, last week) is not the SS Tuscania that was torpedoed off Islay in February 1918, but its namesake, which was built in 1922 by the same owner, the Anchor Line. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our complaints section for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Peter Boizot, founder of PizzaExpress, 85; Frank Bruno, boxer, 53; Willie Carson, jockey, 72; Bonnie Greer, playwright, 66; Maggie Gyllenhaal, actress, 37; Diana Krall, jazz singer, 50; Griff Rhys Jones, comedian, 61; Paul Scholes, footballer, 40; Sir Magdi Yacoub, heart surgeon, 79; Waqar Younis, cricketer, 43


1857 24 Victoria Crosses are awarded at second relief of Lucknow, the most in one day; 1914 US Federal Reserve Bank opens; 1938 LSD is first synthesised by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann; 1979 Sir Anthony Blunt named as the “fourth man” in the Cambridge spy ring; 1988 Estonia defies Soviet Union by declaring sovereignty


as international matchmaking agency

Gatwick launched a new report claiming that even with a second runway it would be able to meet EU and UK air quality targets

Gatwick has restrictions on the number of planes that can fly at night, but noise pollution remains an issue in neighbouring areas Photo: Alamy

7:00AM GMT 15 Nov 2014


SIR – As a financial journalist, Jeremy Warner was right to give the strong monetary and political argument why a new runway at Heathrow will never be built.

But there are more compelling reasons why a third Heathrow runway is a non-starter. The existing noise and pollution problems are bad enough, and recent trials by the airport have shown that these can easily overspill into outlying areas.

Heathrow’s promise of “quieter planes” is pie in the sky. So is the eradication of night flights, which begin as early as four o’clock in the morning and disturb many thousands of people.

A new runway at Gatwick will affect fewer people and is the best political option for the major parties.

Laurie A Anders
London W4

SIR – Jeremy Warner’s article misses one very important consideration, which is what the airlines want.

No major airline has come out in support of the case for Gatwick expansion. Even easyJet, Gatwick’s major customer, has reserved its position on the case for Gatwick. Any decision taken without considering the views of these companies would be an unsound one.

Aidan Zeall
Crawley, West Sussex

SIR – Jeremy Warner observes that Gatwick “fits… into the political zeitgeist – with its emphasis on encouraging competition, different business models, low-cost alternatives and keeping the bill for connecting transport infrastructure to manageable levels”.

How then does he account for our politicians’ devotion to HS2, which fails on all these counts?

Neil Voyce
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – Our Victorian great-great-grandfathers would never have wasted time patching up Heathrow. They would have gone for Boris Island with at least four major runways.

A British firm built Hong Kong International Airport in just two years. Surely we can do it here in four.

Dick Lees
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – There has been much talk about the capacity of Britain’s airports, with rarely a word about the skies above them.

Those skies not only have to cope with traffic to and from Britain – there are also many civil and military aircraft which overfly the country. I have a radar picture, taken at five in the afternoon in August two years ago, which shows there were 8,245 aircraft flying over Europe at that moment.

I would welcome the views of those unsung heroes, the air traffic controllers. In my many years as an airline pilot, I have always held them in high regard.

Lawrence Nutton
Weybridge, Surrey

Overseas aid choice

SIR – It is ludicrous to propose enshrining British overseas aid in law, or even to ring-fence the amount as a percentage of GDP (Letters, November 14). The sole criterion for providing aid should be whether it is in Britain’s vital interests to do so.

There should be no moral priority or charitable considerations to this expenditure of taxpayers’ money. Many national and international organisations, such as Oxfam, the Red Cross and Save the Children, are wholly and expressly structured for providing aid funded by voluntary contributions – and the British people devote significant amounts of their own (taxed) income to such causes.

It is unacceptable for the taxpayer to be forced to fund aid other than that which is deemed to be essential to Britain’s defence, home security, diplomacy and trade.

William Pender
Stratford-sub-Castle, Wiltshire

Planting poppies

Photo: David Rose/The Telegraph

SIR – I have spoken directly to a worker in the office distributing poppies who said that stems will be included with the ceramic heads (Letters, November 14); but not necessarily the stems seen at the Tower of London.

Denise Hilton
East Guildford, Surrey

SIR – I donated £25 for a poppy from the Tower of London, knowing the money was going to help our servicemen and women of today, and at the same time recognising the sacrifice those of earlier generations made during the First World War.

Those who feel hard done by because a different stem may be sent with their poppies should be ashamed of themselves. The display of poppies at the Tower of London was a huge tribute to the almost 900,000 servicemen and women who died and I doubt whether anyone who visited the display failed to be moved to tears. When my poppy arrives, it will still be treasured.

Stephen Ivall
Devoran, Cornwall

Waste in space

SIR – While I admire the scientists working on the Philae lander, could we not have spent the £1.1 billion more wisely?

Simon Morpuss
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – I admire the success of the Rosetta space mission thus far, which illustrates the high level of engineering ability throughout many European nations. To maintain contact and control of the craft and module over a distance of 300 million miles is an amazing achievement.

Some years ago while travelling by hydrofoil across the Mediterranean, my tour guide received a mobile phone call. All around was sea – no visible land at all on the horizon in any direction. If I am approximately 10 miles north of my house I am out of mobile phone contact.

M G Watkins

Happy clappy

SIR – What has caused the outbreak of clapping that seems to be sweeping the country? People now clap at funerals, during one-minute silences, when a golfer holes a putt for a triple bogey, and when they answer successfully a question on a television quiz show.

Last week, for the first time, I noticed contestants on University Challenge clapping themselves, and applause even broke out at the Remembrance service at the Cenotaph.

Jon Petcher
Oadby, Leicestershire

What lies ahead for the residents of Brookfield?

Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer) and Tim Bentinck (David Archer) (BBC)

SIR – What are they doing to The Archers? I’ve put up with a lot of the recent storylines, but the final straw must be the selling of Brookfield and the move to Northumberland.

It simply would not happen. The owners of a family farm, which has been in the family for generations, would find a way to manage the building of a new road.

It’s fanciful to think a whole family would uproot to be near a mother with failing health. Common sense says she would move to be near them.

I, for one, will not be listening to The Archers if David, Ruth and Jill leave Brookfield. I suspect I will be joined by other loyal fans.

Jane Walbank
Garthorpe, Lincolnshire

SIR – Dame Jenni Murray, the Radio 4 broadcaster, need not worry. I suspect that there’s about as much chance of the Archer family leaving Brookfield as the pickled remains of Darrell Makepeace being unearthed in the Grundys’ cider shed.

Ambridge’s only homeless person is yet another character to have disappeared off the radar – or, more accurately, the radio.

Chris Arnot
Earlsdon, Warwickshire

SIR – I am thoroughly enjoying the new quicker-paced Archers. It is keeping me alert and the ironing is done faster.

In a past life, my husband and I ran a village pub and, believe me, what country life appeared to be on the surface belied what lay beneath.

So cheerio to Ruth, David and the children, and hello to a new era with fewer Archers.

Though Jill will really have to stay.

Sarah Cade
Taunton, Somerset

Camps and woodcraft still prevail in the Scouts

Scout’s honour: a Belizean stamp honours the movement’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell (Alamy)

SIR – I have no doubt that badges such as public relations, circus skills and IT are becoming popular with the current generation of Scouts, but I do doubt whether they are more popular than badges for more adventurous pursuits such as camping and hiking.

Furthermore, community service has always been at the heart of scouting. It is true that leaders need to be more versatile now than at any time in the movement’s 107-year history, but it is the traditional activities for which most young people join scouting, and skills such as knot-tying have many applications.

Adult Leaders in my Scout county continually ask for more training in the practical skills such as camping, woodcraft and survival because they know that these teach young people how to be resourceful, self-reliant and to show initiative.

Christopher C Dean
Deputy County Commissioner,
Greater London South West Scouts

Performers’ wages

SIR – Nicola Fifield is right to point out the disgraceful underpayment of London’s dancers, which is an issue that affects the vast majority of performers in the capital.

However, it is wrong to compare this with the wages of box-office staff, who do a completely different, yet important, job.

The chronic problem of low pay is best solved by tackling the employers and the industry itself, rather than pitting different sets of workers against each other.

Daniel de la Motte-Harrison
Young Vic, London SE1

Hidden calorie content

SIR – There seems little point to food labelling when retailers can use it to mislead the buyer.

I recently purchased a “snack size” packet of fruit and nuts, with the nutritional information clearly stated on the label. However, on closer inspection, the statement “A typical 25g serving contains” was barely discernible in small dark letters. The pack weighed 60g. So my “snack” contained not the 107 calories most prominently stated, but closer to 260 calories.

Donna Cartmell
Elswick, Lancashire

Attitude to engineering

SIR – Margaret Stamper has my sympathy over the failure of fellow professionals to recognise her husband’s engineering qualifications (Letters, November 13).

As a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, I was once told by an eminent doctor during a medical examination that a “career of heavy lifting” had probably contributed to my medical condition.

Craig Kennedy
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales

Readers united

SIR – It would appear that the Telegraph has yet another use: that of international matchmaking agency.

Following a letter I had published on September 18, a charming gentleman contacted me as he had enjoyed my sense of humour. We arranged a rendezvous near where I live in Brittany and this retired group RAF captain, my husband and I are now good friends.

So thank you for that.

Julia Evans
Beganne, Morbihan, France

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – So, Bob Geldof is re-running the Band Aid single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Did you know that the combined wealth of the new generation of Band Aid singers is circa €3bn? More interestingly, the combined wealth of the original Band Aid singers is fast approaching €20bn.

No doubt Bob would say that personal wealth isn’t the issue.

But it is, Bob, it certainly is.

What we need today is a firebrand public figure, to rally a call to confront the astonishing and fundamentally immoral, world-wide wealth gap, between the desperately poor and the complacent rich.

I have no doubt that bored pop singers feel good when they ask others to throw a few coins at starving and desperate Africans. But that approach was seen to be an abject failure 30 years ago.

So, come on Bob, it’s time to twist Bono’s arm for a three hundred million euro donation. Get Sting and David Bowie to hand over five hundred million.

You know they will still have more money than they could ever spend after your finished with them. After all, it’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid of putting your vast wealth where your mouth is.

Declan Doyle,


A choral treat in store tonight

Madam – This very evening at 6.30 in the magnificent Titantic Building in Belfast, the final of the School Choir of the Year Competition will take place.

Watching this competition on the last few Sunday evenings on RTE has been an absolute joy.

The talent of all the choirs performing has been wonderful and of a very high standard. And the short introductory films of school life by the pupils themselves before each performance, brought tears to my eyes, as such a school life is alien to what I experienced back in the 1960s. I do not recall one happy day of my long school life.

So, to today’s generation I say enjoy your school life and be happy. For be assured, from the evidence of your own excellent film-making, all aspects of school life have improved beyond my expectations, and for the better.

Having such wonderful memories of last year’s competition, I can guarantee a real treat of music and song for all who tune in this evening. I wish all the finalists the very best.

Brian Mc Devitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Sunday Independent

Madam – The ghastly scenes that rounded off the latest series of Love/Hate shocked even the most hardened fans.

But I wonder how many viewers actually make the link between the images of violence, terror, and intimidation that characterised the series and the reality of gangland that confronts our society?

Fair enough, it’s fiction, and the primary aim is to entertain. But watching it I couldn’t help but think of the heartache, trauma, and human misery that criminals are wreaking on already hard pressed communities nationwide.

What I liked about the drama was that the characters that many viewers sneakingly admired have now been shown up as evil predators.

And who would seriously want to end up with either a long prison stretch or summary “execution” at the hands of rival or fellow hoodlums?

So, next time anyone has information that might help the fight against organised crime, let’s think of that stomach-churning Love/Hate finale, and tip off the gardai.

John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny


Enda’s big risk over water costs

Madam – What does it take to get Enda to realize that water charges are a loser? Is he willing to decimate his party in trying to force this charge on us? When members of his own party are in open dispute and some have already jumped ship what does it take to make him see the light.

When 150,000 protesters take peacefully to the towns of Ireland to protest this unfair charge why can he not listen? Will he be prepared to jail those who will not pay this charge as has been done to some of those who have not paid their television license fee? If so they had better start building a lot of new jails fast.

The Labour party for some reason has carried on as if this is none of their business. They are very wrong and will be wiped out as the Green Party was.

Michael O’Meara,

Killarney, Co Kerry


Memories of the well and barrel

Madam – With all the debate at the moment on water charges, it gets me thinking back to days when we had no running water.

I remember my dad making a large splash each morning as he ducked himself in the barrel of rainwater that stood under a down pipe at the back of our house. Indeed I can still recall him breaking the ice in the barrel on frosty mornings.

Ice baths are used now by many sports teams to refresh and invigorate the members, so my dad must have been a pioneer in that regard. Indeed there was a barrel at every neighbours’ house to catch the precious rainwater which was lead, copper, iron, manganese and ecoli-free.

Boiled, it was perfect for a cup of tea or cooking vegetables, though we mostly used the water from the local well for those purposes. The only treatment the well got was a yearly dose of lime.

Today we are going to have to pay for our water, and some of it isn’t even fit to drink.

Murt Hunt,

Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo


Water chaos will hit business

Madam – It is estimated that almost half the water that runs through our mains is lost in leaks spread across the entire network. The mammoth task to trace and repair is certain to cause chaos throughout the country. Yet Irish Water has provided neither a programme nor a method statement to show how it proposes to carry out these works.

For businesses these works can cause a loss of valuable income. It is generally accepted that the best time to carry out large disruptive infrastructural works is during times of economic buoyancy, something we are certainly not experiencing at present.

John Bellew,

Dunleer, Co Louth


Broadford is up to the challenge

Madam – Last Sunday’s story of emigration and separation in Broadford, Co. Clare, is entirely true but it only represents half of the truth of Broadford.

It is also a home of spirited people, a community that has always refused to lie down, that in recent years has fought, successfully, to retain its post office, has rejuvenated its handball club after years of decline and whose hurling club continues to develop its underage structures. This year it won its first underage title at “A” grade.

The purpose of this letter is not to claim credit for any government for the community’s triumphs. None is due. It is merely to dispel the image of Broadford as a community of passive victims of the recession from which we may now be finally emerging. The people of Broadford are, and have always been, ever prepared to meet any challenge (on or off a pitch), including, but not only, the challenge of going abroad for a period to work.

Michael McNamara, TD,

Scariff, Co Clare


Trichet letter was a blunt threat

Madam – After reading the letter sent by the former President of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, to the late Brian Lenihan, I am of the view it wasn’t a request, but a threatening demand by the bullyboys of Europe.

I am under no illusion as to what caused this country to end up in financial disaster. However, that doesn’t excuse the outrageous threatening behaviour of the ECB which enrages me, especially now knowing Mr Lenihan was under tremendous strain both physically and mentally on account of his serious illness which eventually led to his demise, Lord rest him.

The onus is now upon this government to secure a huge write-down of our massive debt, and immediately separate sovereign and private debt.

Mattie Greville,

Killucan, Co Westmeath

We should take ECB to court

Madam – The ‘secret letter’ of the ECB’s Jean Claude Trichet written to Brian Lenihan, now needs to be brought to the European Court of Human Rights and entered on behalf of the Irish people as a ‘crime against humanity’.

Irish citizens were asked to pay an unfair and unjust price for the recklessness of both an Irish and a European private sector ‘problem’ which has resulted in the enforced emigration of an entire generation of young Irish people and six years of austerity.

It was clearly the political framing of this financial crisis through a combination of oppressive responses – the secret letter from the ECB, the political ambitions of the German Chancellor and the G8 leaders at the time – as being exclusively Irish and exclusively due to Irish government fiscal policies, that makes this an issue of human rights and moral rights for the Irish people.

Geraldine Mooney Simmie,

Faculty of Education & Health Sciences,

University of Limerick

Martin never ever forgot small defeat

Madam – I am a past pupil of St Patricks NS, from the north side of Cork city, who crossed over the bridge to the South Side to complete my secondary education in Colaiste Chriost Ri back in the day.

Chriost Ri had many talented footballers and hurlers who went on to play with Cork down through the years but none more so than the group who competed from 1968 – 1970. In the football final in 1970 they were up against huge favourites St Malachy’s of Belfast who had current Irish manager, Martin O’ Neill, in their ranks. Malachy’s led all the way right up to the final minutes, but Chriost Ri hung on and never let them get too far ahead.

Near the finish, famous Cork dual player, Martin Doherty, hit a long clearance up the field and the hero of the hour, Noel Miller, blasted it to the net to put Chriost Ri ahead. The ball was kicked out and the referee blew the final whistle. To say the Malachy’s players were distraught is an understatement.

I was at a dinner some years ago where the speaker was none other than Martin O Neill who won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, was capped 64 times for Northern Ireland and managed, among others, Celtic. He was asked what was his greatest disappointment over his career to date. Without hesitation he recalled that game against Chriost Ri in Croke Park over 45 years ago. He could still remember the tears and disbelief, still hurting, wondering how they ever lost that game.

Ernest O’Mahony,

Co-president and founder of Mayfield Utd, Cork


Is modern Ireland anti-Catholic?

Madam – We must be grateful to the Sunday Independent (9 November) for uncovering the apparently countrywide targeting of Catholics in universities because they are against homosexual practises and pro-life in all respects. So much for modern Irish culture.

Frank O’Meara,

Quinn, Co Clare


Anti-Catholic bias is “conjecture”

Madam – The article last week on “Catholic fear and loathing in our universities” is wholly based in conjecture. There is no evidence of any campaign to marginalise third level students who are informed by their Catholic faith. This is an attempt to attribute the cause of the decline of participation of religious students on secularism, rather than recognising that general disillusionment is caused by clerical sex abuse scandals.

Sean Cassidy,

Dublin 20


SF emboldened by poll results

Madam – Your front page story (Sunday Independent, 9 November) that Mary Lou McDonald was defending Gerry Adams’s sick joke may have surprised some – but I’d ask why?

Maybe the fact that Sinn Fein/IRA have risen a few points in a poll, makes them more confident to admit things they previously would have remained silent on. I wonder if they jump another point or two in the next poll, will Gerry Adams suddenly remember he was in the IRA.

Tony Fagan,


Co Wexford


We have short memories of past

Madam – I had to put in writing my disgust at the way Gerry Adams can so flippantly mention guns, threats and newspaper personnel in the one sentence.

Independent Newspapers lost two quality reporters in shocking atrocities and there was not a mention of this in his speech. We must make sure that his likes do not get into a real position of power and lessen our international standing, and we must do it for all those who lost loved ones too.

We seem to have short memories about some of the things that happened in our country not so long ago. And must we be forever grateful for the “peace process.” It’s the least we might have expected after 30 years that destroyed a generation.

I also must praise Eilis O’Hanlon for her outstanding and quality articles of late in your newspaper.

Ken Maher,

Kilcoole, Co Wicklow


Where are young women of SF?

Sir-It was shocking to read the disgusting contents of Gerry Adams’s twitter account chronicled by Eilis O’Hanlon in last week’s Sunday Independent.

It would be a matter of shame for any normal decent father or grandfather to be involved in such salacious material which is insulting to women, particularly those who suffered abuse.

It is disturbing, however, that the article elicited so little reaction from those who are always ready to pounce on any deviation from political correctness around women.

It also tells us a lot about the so-called young educated women of Sinn Fein who appear to acquiesce in all of this.

Martin Crotty,

Monkstown, Co Dublin


Warning on rise of Sinn Fein

Madam – Over the past months the Sunday Independent has been very critical of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Government.

Some of it is justified. Enda Kenny himself has admitted mistakes were made. Other criticisms were unwarranted and little credit was given to the government’s achievements.

At no time has Enda Kenny threatened the staff of the Independent or suggested that your printing equipment be smashed up. Whatever your views on Enda Kenny one thing cannot be disputed – he is a democrat and believes in the freedom of the press.

I am concerned at the startling similarities between Sinn Fein and the rise of the Nazi party. Both started as a small insignificant party and used the economic situation in their respective countries to gain support. Both used their private armies of thugs and bully boys to stifle opposition and the Nazis did indeed smash up printing presses of newspapers that were critical of their actions.

Sinn Fein claim to be the heirs of the men and women of the 1916 Easter Rising. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about them beating children, the fate of Jean McConville and the treatment of Mairia Cahill.

I warn my fellow citizens that if you want a future that your children and grand children can look forward to with confidence, we need a stable government with prudent economic policies and, most importantly, freedom to express our opinions, then you must ensure that Sinn Fein does not get its hands on the levers of Government.

Uinsionn O’Colmain,

Sutton, Dublin 13

Sunday Independent

Promoted articles


November 15, 2014

15 November 2014 Gout

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A n awful day I am stricken with gout.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Alexander Grothendieck – obituary

Alexander Grothendieck was a mathematician hailed as a genius who embraced ‘militant activism’ before losing his reason

Alexander Grothendieck

Alexander Grothendieck Photo: REX

5:53PM GMT 14 Nov 2014


Alexander Grothendieck, who has died aged 86, was considered the greatest pure mathematician of the second half of the 20th century, his name uttered with the same reverence among mathematicians as that of Einstein among physicists. Yet in the 1970s he effectively abandoned his brilliant academic career and, in 1991, disappeared altogether; he was later reported as “last heard of raging about the devil somewhere in the Pyrenees”.

A mathematician of staggering accomplishment (one reference work described him as “the mathematician whose work was to lead to a unification of geometry, number theory, topology and complex analysis”), Grothendieck’s ubiquitous presence in almost all branches of pure mathematics between 1955 and 1970 revolutionised the subject, in recognition of which he was awarded the Fields Medal (the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 1966.

His extraordinary creativity expressed itself in the form of thousands of pages of mathematical literature, notably in the monumental Eléments de Géométrie Algébrique and Séminaire de Géométrie Algébrique – although his achievement was matched only by the impossibility of explaining it to anyone without at least a degree in Pure Mathematics. (Grothendieck’s most important single accomplishment, for example, was said to be “the invention of the étale and l-adic cohomology theories”.)

Grothendieck’s most creative period was spent at the French Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES), and his time there was regarded ever after as the institute’s “Golden Age”, during which a whole new school of mathematics flourished under Grothendieck’s charismatic leadership. He established the IHES as a world centre of algebraic geometry, with him as its driving force.

There was, however, another Grothendieck, a man who felt deeply about the world’s injustices. As a young student, he had decided not to study physics (despite his love for the subject), as he saw the discipline, after Hiroshima, as hopelessly compromised. During the Vietnam War, to protest against American imperialism, he gave lectures on category theory in the forests around Hanoi while the city was being bombed.

In the 1960s he refused to participate in conferences supported by Nato, Nasa or other defence interests. In some cases conference organisers went to the length of securing alternative funding in order to secure his participation. In 1966, when he was awarded the Fields Medal, he refused to travel to Moscow for the ceremony in protest at Soviet militarism.

His career reached a crisis in 1970 when he discovered that IHES was being funded in part, and indirectly, by the French Ministry of Defence. This triggered a bitter debate between Grothendieck and the founder of IHES, Leo Motchane, who maintained a clear division between scientific matters, which were left to the professors, and financial ones, which were the director’s domain.

Grothendieck poured scorn on the ease with which colleagues had accepted the situation, observing that their willingness to accept military funding had not prevented them “from professing the ideas ‘of the Left’ or from being indignant at colonial wars. They generally justify this by saying that this did not limit in any sense their independence or freedom of thought. They refuse to see that this collaboration gives an aura of respectability and liberalism to this apparatus of control, destruction and depreciation. This is something that shocked me.”

Alexander Grothendieck (REX)

When Grothendieck failed to secure an immediate halt to the offending subsidy, he felt he had no choice but to resign. His attempts to find a position at an alternative top-ranking university or institute failed, either because the authorities were wary of his fiery reputation or because they did not fulfil his exacting preconditions.

He found work at lesser institutions, but not in areas of advanced research; and in any case, he had become increasingly preoccupied by politics.

In the 1970s, declaring himself a “militant activist”, he founded a small group called Survivre et Vivre, an anti-war, anti-imperialist, environmental movement. But partly because of its founder’s increasingly eccentric behaviour, the group failed to establish a popular base.

By the 1980s, Grothendieck had become seriously psychologically unstable. Finally he secluded himself in a small hamlet in the Pyrenees. In 1991, after burning thousands of pages of manuscript in the garden of his then girlfriend, he vanished altogether.

Alexander Grothendieck was born to Jewish parents in Berlin on March 28 1928. His father, Shapiro, was a Russian-born anarchist who had taken an active part in the Revolution and, after falling out with Lenin, in various Leftist movements in Germany, where he married the equally radical Johanna (“Hanka”). In 1933 Alexander’s parents moved to Paris to escape the Nazis, leaving their five-year-old son with a family in Hamburg, where he went to school. During this time his father fought in the Spanish Civil War.

In 1939 Alexander came to France, and in 1940 was interned with his mother as an “undesirable” (German, then after the German invasion, as a Jew) in the Rieucros camp near Mende. Shapiro, meanwhile, was interned in the camp of Le Vernet, from where he was deported to Auschwitz and died in 1942. Though Alexander never really knew his father, he held him in great esteem. His office at the IHES had no decoration except a portrait of his father.

Life in Vichy France was not easy. But in 1942, after the Grothendiecks had been moved to a detention camp at Gurs, Alexander was able to attend the Collège Cévénol, a school run by Protestant resisters at the village of Chambon-sur-Lignon, where he obtained his baccalauréat.

After the war Alexander and his mother moved to a small village near Montpellier, where he found part-time work on a farm while studying Mathematics at the university. In 1948 he went to Paris, carrying a letter of introduction from his former school to the mathematician Henri Cartan. Cartan advised him to go to Nancy, where he studied for a doctorate under Jean Dieudonné.

Grothendieck then spent several years travelling and teaching in Brazil and America . In 1956 he returned to France and, in 1959, he and Dieudonné accepted appointments as professors at the newly-established IHES in Bures-sur-Yvette, where, over the next 12 years, Grothendieck completely revolutionised the theory of algebraic geometry.

After leaving the IHES, Grothendieck tried but failed to get a post at the Collège de France in Paris. Instead, in 1973, he accepted a professorship at Montpellier University, where he mainly taught elementary subjects such as linear algebra and calculus. He became estranged from the high-level mathematical community.

During the 1980s Grothendieck wrote thousands of pages of mathematical and non-mathematical meditations, much of it mixing philosophical invective, paranoid attacks on rivals and, here and there, insights of pure genius. These included his autobiographical Récoltes et Semailles (1983-85), a paranoid 1,000-page treatise in which he set out his dissatisfactions with the mathematical world but also laid the groundwork for a new field known as anabelian geometry; La clef des songes (1986), in which he explained how the reality of dreams convinced him of God’s existence; and Esquisse d’un programme (1984), a proposal for a position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, in which he described new ideas for studying the “moduli space” of complex curves. Although Grothendieck never published work in this area, the idea became the inspiration for other mathematicians and the source of the new theory of dessins d’enfants (children’s drawings).

In May 1988 the Swedish Academy awarded him the Crafoord Prize, a belated attempt to repair the neglect of Alfred Nobel in not creating a prize in mathematics, which came with a cash award of $160,000. But Grothendieck astonished the mathematics world by rejecting it, and in a rambling letter to Le Monde explained his decision as motivated by disgust at the dishonesty and corruption of the scientific and political establishment .

In August 1991, Grothendieck left his home in the Pyrenees, suddenly and without warning, for an unknown location. Severing contacts with friends, family and colleagues, he refused practically all human contact.Over the next few years various rumours circulated. Some suggested that he had remained in the Pyrenees and become a Buddhist. Others maintained that he was living in the Ardèche, herding goats and entertaining radical ecological theories. According to another rumour he was working on a 50-volume manuscript addressing, among other things, the physics of free will.

One of the members of the mathematical establishment to come into contact with him was Leila Schneps who, with her future husband, Pierre Loschak, tracked him down and found him “obsessed by the devil which he sees at work everywhere in the world” . In a subsequent letter to Leila Schneps, Grothendieck said he would be prepared to share his research into physics with her if she could answer one question: “What is a metre?”

In 2010 he tried to eradicate all trace of his past life, writing a letter to one of his students demanding that his entire back catalogue be removed from libraries and refusing to allow republications.

Alexander Grothendieck, who was twice married and had four children, died in hospital at Saint-Girons in south-west France.

Alexander Grothendieck, born March 28 1928, died November 13 2014


To let signs Actions that could address the inequities of the housing market include ‘stop regarding it as a market and begin regarding it as a necessity’. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty

Reading Polly Toynbee (Behind this door live 160 families, 11 November) and Aditya Chakrabortty (The story of the millionaire Tory MP and the tenants facing homelessness, 11 November), it seems to me there are three key actions that could address the iniquities of the housing “market”. They are, first, stop regarding housing as a market and begin regarding it as a human necessity. Second, reintroduce rent controls, requiring all landlords to be licensed, paying for the inspections and processes by charging for the licence. Third, only allow council houses to be sold at full market value, with all money raised from the sales used to build more council housing. If the Labour party were to espouse these policies, it could demonstrate understanding of the average person’s difficulties, as well as dramatically reducing the housing benefit bill.
Sally Plumb
Smethwick, West Midlands

• Neither of these articles proposes the obvious solution: rent control. It should be illegal to evict tenants who are not in arrears for at least a year (two years? five years?) to eradicate revenge eviction. The same rule should apply in cases where landlords default on their loans. In this case, the tenant should simply pay rent to the lender, with the option of converting the tenancy to a mortgage.

Rent could be based on the council tax. For example, a maximum of five times the council tax, so a property with an annual council tax bill of £1,000 could be let for a maximum rent of £5,000 a year (about £416 a month). Rents could increase in line with council tax. If this means that buy-to-let landlords default on their loans, so much the better; it would allow those first-time buyers jostled off the housing ladder to buy such properties cheaply. Don’t forget buy-to-let landlords get tax relief on the interest on their loans. Rent control would also reduce the £9bn that the taxpayer is handing over to landlords each year, another result of the buy-to-let boom, and would relieve the misery of tenants such as in your articles. Come on Labour, rent control could win you the next election.
Roy Saberton
Sale, Cheshire

• My mum and dad in Cardiff bought their council house in the 1980s, as did most of my aunts and uncles, and at the time it was a wonderful thing, driving aspiration, social mobility and great DIY. Thirty years later with our social housing stock dwindling, Labour needs to make an election pledge to end right-to-buy and stop the vulture-like property speculation shockingly reported on by Polly Toynbee. Prompted by this article to check the main parties’ websites, I found the Green party’s policy slate on housing to be thoughtful, broad in scope and highly detailed, with a strong commitment to keep social housing in the public realm.
Mark Garland
New Malden, Surrey

• I lived until the age of seven with my older sister and parents in a Glasgow single-end (one room) on the third floor of a tenement with an outside toilet (not even containing a wash hand basin) on the stair. We then got a new two-bedroom council house, and two years later, a new house in a new town (East Kilbride). I was born in 1946. I have always been puzzled as to why, following six years of war, the country could afford to build tens of thousands of council houses, but will not do so now, preferring to pour billions of pounds into the pockets of private landlords.
Anne Buchanan
Hamilton, South Lanarkshire

• It isn’t just private landlords who are causing the housing crisis in London. My landlord, the supposedly philanthropic Peabody Charitable Trust, is at it as well. A family flat has three bedrooms. One for mum and dad, and one each for teenage children coping with homework and puberty. Peabody is charging such high and fast-rising rents for these homes that two key workers with kids can’t afford them. They are being let to three single working people who have to revert to the student life of shared bathrooms and kitchens. This deprives working families of homes and disrupts the balance of old and young in our communities.

As a concession to the campaigning efforts of our tenants’ associations (Letters, 9 October), Peabody has agreed to limit rent rises to 5% a year for this year only. But wages are not going up at anything like that rate and Peabody’s costs have been held down in line with the inflation indexes. The result is a declared surplus of £281m last year and ever growing hardship among exactly the sort of people George Peabody set up his charity to help. Concerted action by tenants to get landlords and politicians to respond is essential if we are to see any resolution of this shambles.
Nik Wood

• Your article and opinion piece made me feel very angry about the greed of the already wealthy; the “we’re all in it together” hypocrisy of the chancellor; and the sheer apparent inability of councils and the London mayor to do anything meaningful about low-cost housing. The New Era estate that Aditya Chackrabortty writes about was built by a charitable trust apparently; one has to ask what were the trustees up to – were they fulfilling their obligations by selling out to a private firm, resulting in tenants being evicted?
Peter Hartley
West Hoathly, West Sussex

• Polly Toynbee’s reference to slum landlords who evict tenants complaining about the condition of their homes reminded me that my own great-grandfather Alfred Valentine was a Labour councillor in Stepney in the 1920s when he and the mayor, Clement Attlee, fought the slum landlords who failed to repair their properties. Plus ça change.
Dudley Turner
Westerham, Kent

• Affordable housing is needed in many rural areas for those who work or have family ties in our villages and hamlets (Paying the price, 12 November). Without it, these areas will no longer support vibrant communities. Wednesday was also #Housing Day, dedicated to celebrating “the positive impact of social housing on thousands of people across the UK”. Yet government statistics show that only 10,840 social rented properties have been built this year, a quarter of the number built in 2010-11 at the height of the recession.

A further irony is that the government is working on changes to the planning system that will cripple the amount of affordable homes built in the countryside. The proposals will exempt sites with under 10 housing units from the requirement to include a proportion of affordable housing. In 2012-13, 66% of rural affordable housing was delivered via this requirement. This is why CPRE is urging the government not to give rural sites this proposed exemption and to increase investment in truly affordable homes. It is possible, and should be a priority, to ensure that the beauty and tranquillity of our countryside is preserved, while allowing the communities within it to thrive.
John Rowley
Campaign to Protect Rural England

The director of the Landmark Trust (Gormley commemorates Landmark Trust on a human scale, 7 November) is probably mistaken in thinking that the trust’s founder Sir John Smith was the only Conservative MP who was also a member of the union of fairground showmen. As far as I am aware he was never a member of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain in any capacity. However, he had an active interest in the world of the travelling showmen, and in 1964 – the year before he launched the trust – he played host to the Great Steam Fair in Shottesbrooke Park, his Berkshire home. This one-off event brought together several fairground rides that had survived from the age of steam. It was a great success, and through the similar events that it inspired in the following years, such as the Great Dorset Steam Fair, it prolonged the active life of a whole generation of veteran rides that were then on the verge of being consigned to the scrapheap. Significantly, all the rides that appeared at the great steam fair half a century ago are still in existence today. For the record, the only member of the Showmen’s Guild to be an MP was the legendary showman Pat Collins, who served as Walsall’s Liberal member from 1922 to 1924.
Graham Downie
Chairman, the Fairground Association of Great Britain

Baby's feet Compensation for children affected by foetal alcohol syndrome matter ‘is about supporting the child born from that situation throughout their often very challenging life as a result of the injury received in the womb.’ Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

I helped promote abused children’s entitlement to criminal injuries compensation and a local authority’s duty to make application on behalf of children in their care. Both your editorial (6 November) and Simon Jenkins (Opinion, 7 November) assert that any compensation received would alleviate the burden on the council and be to their benefit. The implication is that councils are pursuing these applications in their self-interest. Upon what evidence are these statements based? My understanding is that any award would be directly to the child concerned. While it may be put in trust until the child achieves majority, it could not simply be used by the council to offset any costs of its statutory duty of care.

In raising the matter as far back as 1988, I sought to highlight the parlous situation of many children leaving care with little support, financial or otherwise. Would your writers not wish to pursue any avenue that might benefit a child who has suffered harm at the hands of another person? The issues of whether a foetus can have a legal identity and whether a crime has been committed are difficult, but it’s wrong to criticise a council for seeking to further the interests of a child in its care if there is an arguable case. For them to do otherwise would truly be a proper cause for concern.
Peter Ferguson
Castle Heather, Inverness

• As a lawyer working in care proceedings, I frequently represent children who have been damaged by their mother’s abuse of alcohol while pregnant. In other cases I act for the for mothers and can see both sides of the problem. The use of inverted commas around the phrase “foetal alcohol syndrome” almost implies Simon Jenkins is sceptical about this condition, perhaps implying an invention of fee-hungry lawyers? Foetal alcohol damage is seen on a spectrum – foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – and is one of the largest undiagnosed causes of mental health problems and behavioural issues in this country. For a child to be diagnosed with full foetal alcohol syndrome, rather than foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, indicates a high-level of permanent brain damage and must be taken more seriously.
 David Jockelson
Solicitor, Miles & Partners LLP

• Contrary to your editorial and Joanna Moorhead (Don’t turn these mothers into criminals, 6 November), this matter is not about criminalising the birth mother. It is about supporting the child born from that situation throughout their often very challenging life as a result of the injury received in the womb, and who indeed should be liable for compensation from the criminal injuries compensation scheme. These children often come through the care system and are brushed off to unsuspecting adoptive parents, who have little or no idea of how this will impact upon their family lives. These parents become people who can no longer work because their child cannot attend mainstream schools, for whom no specialist schools exist, and who struggle with their hampered development, their constant rages and their damaging behaviour.

Invariably all these parents want to do is get their child through to adulthood in one piece – a challenging task. I am one such parent. I sit in roomfuls of parents exposed to similar difficulties. It is not rare. We struggle alone, turned away by child and adolescent mental health services and with local authorities telling us there is no funding to support us beyond a few kind words and a couple of “parenting” courses. If the only route is criminalisation, so be it. At least this will put the plight of many families up and down the country in the limelight and these children might finally get the help they need.
Name and address supplied

Tacloban's typhoon Haiyan survivors, Philippines Survivors of typhoon Haiyan, which struck on November 8, 2013. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Your report (After the storm, 7 November) highlights that despite intensive relief efforts, including £95m raised from the British public in response to typhoon Haiyan, 2.5 million Filipino people affected by the hurricane remain without proper homes. This situation can be better understood in the light of the crippling external debts that the Philippines inherited from the days of the Marcos regime (1965-86), when western governments and institutions financed the dictator with loans to secure his loyalty during the cold war. In the year since central Philippines was devastated by Haiyan, the country has spent $5.6bn on foreign debt payments. This amounts to 14% of the government’s annual revenue and 25 times more than was given by EU member states in aid in response to the disaster.

In 2000, world leaders committed to “deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries” to help meet the millennium development goals. Yet, the Philippines was considered too rich to qualify for debt cancellation. This despite the fact that 42% of the population – 41 million people – live on less than £1.25 a day. If the international community is truly committed to supporting the Haiyan recovery efforts, and the Philippines’ adaptation to the worsening impacts of extreme weather caused by runaway climate change, then the calls of Philippines movements and peoples’ organisations for the urgent cancellation of the country’s unjust debts, and for grants not loans for relief and reconstruction, must be heard.
Sarah-Jayne Clifton
Director, Jubilee Debt Campaign

• If Bob Geldof and co want to make an impact on the Ebola crisis then they should write a protest song about transnational agri-business’ culpability in the outbreak of the disease, instead of droning on about Christmas. The destruction of West African forests and the takeover of small farmers’ land to grow cash crops for export has forced large numbers of people to migrate to overcrowded cities or seek alternative sources of food such as bush meat. Some have found badly paid work in the explosion of plantations growing African palm for the production of an oil that is used in products from toothpaste to hamburgers. Moreover, the dislocation from their forest homes of animals that carry ebola and their subsequent contact with humans, via bats urine in oil palms for example, has been a key factor in the spread of the illness. African Ebola sufferers are the victims of an unsustainable neocolonial economic order that prioritises western company profits over everything else and no amount of charity from ageing rock stars will change that.
Bert Schouwenburg
International officer, GMB

Hansel and Gretel. Image shot 2012. Exact date unknown. Detail of an image from Hansel and Gretel. Might Johann Peter Hebel’s stories be less gruesome? Photograph: Alamy

As Grimm stories become more gruesome (Grimmer Grimms, 13 November) parents might like to turn to his contemporary Johann Peter Hebel. None of the stories in Hebel’s Treasure Chest (Penguin Classic)is unsuitable for children, and some are probably best appreciated by them. Like the Grimms, Hebel, who also collected his stories from popular sources, was admired by Goethe – and by Tolstoy, Kafka and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Hebel’s stories often imply or express a moral, but are less specifically Christian than the Grimms.
Nicholas Jacobs

• The deification of Alan Johnson in your pages continues apace (Letters, 13 November). I suppose the poverty-to-parliament story is irresistible to some, but I find the transition from trade unionist to ultra-smooth Blairite deeply questionable. Enough already.
Tom McFadyen

• It is incorrect to say that only the residents of Manchester, rather than the other areas of Greater Manchester, were consulted about the election of a mayor (Letters, 12 November). We in Salford now bitterly regret we had that opportunity, which resulted in not just an elected mayor but a deputy and 13 assistant mayors, now cut to a mere 10. The rest of Greater Manchester should not follow our example but learn from it.
Terence Hall
Salford, Greater Manchester

• Now that the longest-running radio serial is emulating its TV counterparts, why not go for broke (Letters, 13 November)? It happened to Bobby Ewing, Dirty Den. and Nick Cotton. Surely it is time for Phil Archer to be brought back from the dead to sort out the projected move from Brookfield.
Edward Thomas

• Seen on a T-shirt in Broken Hill, New South Wales (Letters, 12 November): “My anger management course pisses me off.”
Nikki Knewstub
Liskeard, Cornwall

• If no one was bribed to let Qatar have the World Cup (Sport, 13 November), Fifa are more stupid than we thought.
Richard Head
Melksham, Wiltshire


Let’s get something straight. The foreign exchange and Libor scandals (“Shame in the City: £2.6bn fine leaves London’s reputation in tatters”, 13 November) did not start and stop with a handful of overpaid adolescents engaged in deliberate wrongdoing for personal gain.

The trading floor is open plan. Traders sit on desks. Fellow traders who sit two feet away know what colleagues are up to. The desk head knows the behaviour of the people on his or her team – their character, their attitudes, their strengths and their weaknesses. Similarly, the head of trading walks the floor, takes in the activity, checks unusual gains and losses, and is fully aware of outbursts, happy and otherwise.

For such wrongdoing to persist, it must be because either it was condoned by leadership of the company’s trading room or the executives responsible on the floor were monumentally incompetent.

Similarly, for this to persist without intervention from the CEO suggests that  senior management either did not know, did not care to know or knew and enjoyed the ride. A final possibility is that banking activities have simply become too complex for a CEO to be expected  to know.

As with every scandal to come to light, one must ask: did senior management know? If they knew they were complicit, if they did not know they were incompetent. And if banks have become too complex for anyone to be expected to know then they are too big to manage.

The first two argue for an immediate ban from the industry of a long list of bankers at multiple levels. The last argues for an immediate break-up of the banks.

Let regulators take their pick but they must get off the fence. We need not wait for a criminal act. Regulators can improve accountability by ensuring that these people never work in finance again. Can anyone explain why they should not do so?

Robert Jenkins

Senior Fellow, Better Markets, London W9


Yet another round of risibly small punishments for the usual purveyors of financial disservices. Shall we compile a list of the significant activities for which they haven’t been fined, investigated (with adverse findings), or otherwise censured over the past 15 years or so?

No, I couldn’t think of any either. How about some really eye-watering sanctions, such as one per cent of global turnover (well within the compass of the Competition and Markets Authority)? Ah, but that would hardly be of benefit to all of those institutional shareholders who invest our money in these dysfunctional entities, or, by extension, us, would it?

Jeremy Redman

London SE6


I was most surprised to read that the banks had been allowed to negotiate their latest round of fines. Presumably this was necessary in order to ensure that they were able to make repayments. Perhaps they ought to consider taking out some kind of payment protection insurance…

Julian Self

Milton Keynes

Miliband takes his eye off the ball again

If Ed Miliband is convinced that Ukip intends to privatise the NHS, he has clearly not read its leaflet: “What a Ukip Government will do”. Under the section on the National Health Service, it states: “We will stop further use of PFI in the NHS and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where this is affordable.”

In any case, why so much concentration on Ukip? Mr Miliband stands to lose far more support to the Scottish National Party. Could it be that he has taken his eye off the ball again?

Edward Thomas



The point about maths is it gives you options

A number of distinguished commentators have sought to condemn the Education Secretary for her comments about the importance of studying maths, but I think that they have all missed the point. I am qualified to speak on this as I am a professor of electronic engineering who also has a degree in history of art, which I studied part-time while continuing to work.

The critics have implied that the Secretary of State was downplaying the importance of culture and the arts generally but that is not what she was saying. She simply stated what to me is the “bleeding obvious”: if you don’t study A-level maths then you close off a number of options. If you do, then all your options remain open.

I am happy to confirm that studying history of art is challenging and intellectually stimulating and that you learn valuable life skills. However, it is obvious that you could not be employed as an engineer or as a physicist.

I am sure that I would not have been able to do what I did in reverse – base my career on a degree in history of art and then study engineering in later life. So it is just a simple fact, if you don’t study maths, you limit your options in later life.

Professor Chris Guy

School of Systems Engineering,

University of Reading


 All hopes that greater sanity would prevail at the Department of Education were dashed when Nicky Morgan announced to the world that the only subjects worth studying were maths and science and that those who study the humanities and arts will be disadvantaged for life.

She has told the nation’s children that unless they are talented in these particular areas they are going to experience a lifetime of disadvantage. If this point of view gains ground, schools and universities will reduce funding and resources for subjects other than those she favours and within a short time generations of expertise will be dissipated.

When I recently visited China, I discovered the Chinese government has identified art and design as one of six new focuses in the economy and education. Chinese families are now encouraging their artistically gifted young to come to British schools to study art and design subjects. Many families are prepared to invest in an education that suits their children’s talents rather than being confined to the same narrow range of subjects which are now apparently preferred by our Education Secretary.

Lynne Taylor-Gooby

Principal, The Royal School

Haslemere, Surrey


What does electorate want from its leaders?

In your leader of 12 November you ask what the electorate expects of its politicians and then answer that “they like their leaders to work together in the public interest”, which, you say, is the reason why the Coalition has survived.

The opposite is the truth. The Liberal Democrats have remained part of the Coalition even though all opinion polls suggest that the electorate does not like the fact that the dire state of the public finances and the need to compromise with the Conservatives have meant they have had to take responsibility for unpopular measures.

As a result their poll rating has gone down to below what it was when they just criticised from the opposition benches. In fact, it is well below what it would be had they decided to not share responsibility and instead continued to criticise and pretend that there are easy answers, as does Ukip.

Charles Jenkins

London SW4


Shame on Sainsbury’s profiting from war

Commercialisation of the First World War has sunk to a new low with the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert. It cannot be right to allow a company such as Sainsbury’s to play upon an event such as the 1914 “Christmas truce” – a tiny event amidst the carnage and horrors of the war – for the purposes of advertising its shops and increasing its profits.

Martin Jeanneret

Newhaven, East Sussex


The world is a whole lot better now

John Dakin (letter, 14 November) writes: “The modern world is not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than before 1914” and he is correct, but what he omits is that, in seeking to diminish institutions like the EU and the NHS, the current UK government is actively helping to move Europe back towards those pre-1914 conditions.

Phillip Marston

St-Gingolph, Switzerland

Metric or imperial – it can’t be both

Please make up your mind whether you’re metric or imperial – a foot (or metre) in each camp makes for muddled journalism. The caption for the photo of Bob Diamond’s daughter (14 November) states her dress was ‘‘made from 35 metres of silk and comprising a 15ft-long train’’. If this was part of a ‘spot the deliberate confusion’ competition, I claim my prize.

Shane Malhotra 

Maidstone, Kent 


I agree with Farage – what a dilemma!

I have just read Nigel Farage’s column (14 November) and have to say I agree with every word. He is so right to condemn private finance initiatives as this policy is making billions of pounds for private companies over and above what would have been reasonable amounts. As Farage says, it will be future generations who have to pick up the tab. The only problem I have with Ukip is that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster. What a dilemma!

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey


Sir, As joint editors preparing the 5th Edition of Clinical Negligence we join the concern voiced about the usefulness of the Medical Innovation Bill (report, leader and letter, Nov 13). Exposure to civil liability has limited effect on medical innovation as most clinical negligence claims concern poor rather than innovative practice. Moreover, the safety of medicines and the performance of doctors are regulated by law. We are not aware of negligence cases founded on medical innovation alone. Existing common law is robust and flexible enough to address innovation and in its present iteration the bill adds nothing to it. There are better ways of promoting medical innovation such as the recently failed Off-patent Drugs Bill, which had little media attention.

While we sympathise with Lord Saatchi and share his aims, this bill addresses an emotional need to provide hope rather than a deficit in current law.
Dr Michael J Powers QC

Dr Anthony Barton

Solicitor and medical practitioner, Lincoln’s Inn, London

Sir, Lord Saatchi’s bill would not enable doctors to give any treatments they can’t already give — it simply puts their treatment decisions beyond questioning by anybody else, beyond the reach of the law. This bill would apply to “innovative” treatment for any condition, serious or trivial, even when there is an existing effective treatment available. The majority of paediatric prescribing, for example, is for “unlicensed” medication, an area about which Saatchi’s campaign has made particular mention. Do we want such patients to be unprotected by the law? Far from simplifying the law, this bill will make the area more complex and unclear.
David Hills

Stop the Saatchi Bill Campaign
Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan

Sir, As your leading article observed, Lord Saatchi is sincere but misguided. There is a lot that needs to be done to speed up medical research and to reduce the burden of litigation against the NHS but his bill tackles neither. It does not provide anything new that would encourage better science. It does not propose ways to cut the legal claims which cost the health service over £1 billion a year. Instead it removes protection from patients and, as you rightly point out, it opens the door to improper experimentation and downright quackery.
Dr James May
Chair of HealthWatch-UK

Sir, Most cancer patients with a terminal prognosis are able to understand their situation and when all other options have been exhausted, given a choice, some will undoubtedly be happy to try untested treatments. They should be free to do so with the proviso that proper safeguards are in place, not only for the patient but also for the medical practitioners. Hope is important even if it is only the hope of a life extension or of a possible addition to our medical knowledge, thus improving someone else’s chances of survival.
Karen Gabony
Cobham, Surrey

Sir, Lord Saatchi’s bill would prevent some patients who have been harmed by what today would be defined as negligence from having any redress. Worse than that, it would make it easier for a small number of maverick doctors to try out experimental treatment on vulnerable patients. No one wants patients to receive treatment which will genuinely help them more than ourselves but we see this bill as both dangerous and unnecessary. Peter Walsh
Chief executive, Action against Medical Accidents

Sir, It is absurd that Saatchi portrays oncologists as being too timid to innovate. Eleven years ago I had an aggressive cancer — like the one that killed Jackie Kennedy Onassis. It didn’t respond to chemotherapy, so my NHS specialist, not being timid, suggested high-dose chemo and a stem cell transplant, which had a modest success rate of 2-3 per cent. I am still working at 73. I go back to see my specialist once a year to thank him.
Caroline Richmond
London N12

Sir, The BBC has sacrificed TV and radio production in the Midlands for some time now (“Please can we have our everyday Archers back?”, Nov 11). It is making further cuts in the staff making The Archers. It could be just a matter of time until the production of The Archers moves to Salford and BBC production leaves Birmingham altogether.
Richard Jeffs

Sir, Perhaps the solution for The Archers is to dam the Am at Lakey Hill and so create a reservoir to supply Borset and farther afield. Unfortunately, Ambridge will be submerged, but at least there will be fewer objections there to the re-routed HS2 through that part of Borsetshire. The Archers, along with the Grundys, can then start all over again in Northumberland.
Andrew Sanderson
Spennymoor, Co Durham

Sir, I dispute Sir Harold Walker’s contention (letter, Nov 13) that behaviour at the luggage carousel is indicative of the selfish gene. Being no longer in the first flush of youth (I’m in my mid-80s), I find that often a young stranger is extremely helpful in lifting my case off the conveyor belt for me.
David Morris-Marsham
London SW12

Sir, The best way of dealing with litter that I have seen (“Fast food litter on rise”, Nov 13) was a few years ago in the Dutch theme park, Efteling. Talking litter bins in the shape of a nursery rhyme character called out “Papier hier!” (litter here!) and growled “Dank u wel” when litter was thrown into their mouths. Every so often, instead of a thank you, a donation was met with a belch. Giggling children were pouncing on scraps of litter in order to feed the bins. The park was spotless.
Jane Courtier

Sir, Jenni Russell believes that the fall in the number of children put forward for adoption is “bleak news.” (Opinion, Nov 13) Rather, it should be seen as good news and evidence of better standards being required. Whereas other professionals are trained to back up their assertions with facts, social workers often put forward views supported by minimal evidence. Also, a child’s security is based in its sense of identity, which is best developed if a child is placed in the extended family. Organisations such as Grandparents Plus are pressing for a legal obligation to be placed on local authorities to do this.

Social workers cannot be accused of tardiness: a mother can be sent to court only two days after giving birth. Her human rights can be ignored because she will not necessarily have the chance to consult a solicitor. Women who have been mentally ill during pregnancy are likely to fare the worst of all. The judiciary are society’s defence against indifferent and “sloppy” social workers, some of whom seem more concerned to protect their backs than strive to do what is best for the child.
Diane Packham
Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, Jenni Russell believes that the fall in the number of children put forward for adoption is “bleak news.” (Opinion, Nov 13) Rather, it should be seen as good news and evidence of better standards being required. Whereas other professionals are trained to back up their assertions with facts, social workers often put forward views supported by minimal evidence. Also, a child’s security is based in its sense of identity, which is best developed if a child is placed in the extended family. Organisations such as Grandparents Plus are pressing for a legal obligation to be placed on local authorities to do this.

Social workers cannot be accused of tardiness: a mother can be sent to court only two days after giving birth. Her human rights can be ignored because she will not necessarily have the chance to consult a solicitor. Women who have been mentally ill during pregnancy are likely to fare the worst of all. The judiciary are society’s defence against indifferent and “sloppy” social workers, some of whom seem more concerned to protect their backs than strive to do what is best for the child.
Diane Packham
Newcastle upon Tyne


British aid promise; Tower poppies without stems; and a Petit Prince comet

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband Photo: PA

7:00AM GMT 14 Nov 2014


SIR – Because the hapless Ed Miliband is so bad, the Tories should work to preserve him as leader of the Labour Party as a kind of morality tale – that is the suggestion Boris Johnson made earlier this week. This view is dangerously smug.

The spread-betting websites, which have been excellent predictors of elections both here and in the United States, currently predict, by a small margin, that Mr Miliband will be the next prime minister.

Michael Schewitz
London N2

SIR – Ed Miliband’s address to his apparatchiks puts me in mind of Iain Duncan Smith’s promise to the Conservative party conference when he said that “the quiet man is here to stay and he’s turning up the volume”.

Mr Duncan Smith has since transformed himself into a very successful Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. As for Ed Miliband, it may be doubted that, on the basis of his latest performance, he has any such future.

Alec Ellis

SIR – I note from his latest relaunch speech that Ed Miliband is promising to take on the “vested interests” and “powerful forces” in this country. Trade unions first, then?

Graham Jones
Tytherington, Cheshire

SIR – Ed Miliband told the BBC that he had just been auditioning to become our next prime minister; yet for over four years when he has had the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on our behalf, he has asked nothing but “have you stopped beating your wife” non-questions, from which we have learnt nothing.

If he can’t ask intelligent questions, what hope has he got of gleaning the right answers, if he should ever become prime minister, when he would have to rely on the knowledge of experts, with different political leanings, on virtually every subject?

Brian Christley
Abergele. Denbighshire

SIR – Mr Miliband says that his job is an audition for the part of prime minister. Well, thanks Ed, don’t ring us…

John Newman
Pattishall, Northamptonshire

SIR – My reluctance to vote for the Conservatives is based on David Cameron and his ministers making speeches one day contradicted by their actions the next.

In this area of Somerset, we were told by Mr Cameron that money was no object in dealing with the floods. But, as I write, the poor souls affected last year are under threat again.

Why would I vote for more of this? But then, why would I vote for Ed?

Stuart G Pullen
Monkton Heathfield, Somerset

British aid promise

SIR – Philip Hammond is misguided in his comments about the aid law passing through Parliament.

This Bill enjoys cross-party support. Enshrining Britain’s aid promise in law would deliver the 2010 manifesto pledge of all three main political parties as well as the Coalition agreement.

We should be proud that Britain has reached this international target. This law puts life-saving aid beyond politics, guaranteeing that 0.7 per cent of gross national income is spent on aid each year, linked to economic performance, until it is no longer needed. The Bill would also move the debate from “How much aid?” to “How can we use aid most effectively?”

This Bill sends a signal to developing countries that we will keep our aid promise to them. It reminds other rich countries that they too must meet their aid targets.

British aid saves lives and changes lives every day. Philip Hammond is witnessing that first-hand in Sierra Leone where Britain leads the fight against Ebola. However, humanitarian aid alone is not enough. Enshrining the target in law will enable future British governments to make smart long-term investments that address the root causes of poverty.

Ben Jackson
Chief Executive, Bond

Brendan Cox
Director of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children UK

Chris Bain
CEO, Cafod

Jehangir Malik
UK Director, Islamic Relief

Juliet Milgate
Director of Policy and Advocacy, Sightsavers UK

Aaron Oxley
Executive Director, RESULTS UK

Amy Dodd
Coordinator, UKAN

Bert R Smit

Diane Sheard
UK Director, The ONE Campaign

Justin Byworth
CEO, WorldVision UK

Loretta Minghella
Chief Executive, Christian Aid

Margaret Batty
Director of Policy and Campaigns, WaterAid

Rose Caldwell
Executive Director of Concern Worldwide (UK)

Simon O’Connell
Executive Director Elect, Mercy Corps

Tanya Barron
CEO, Plan UK

Sale of ceramic Tower poppies without stems

Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

SIR – I wonder how many people purchasing one of the poppies from the installation at the Tower of London realised they would receive only the ceramic head.

Wendy Rainford
Brayton, West Yorkshire

SIR – I have just discovered that only the heads of the poppies will be sent to the buyers, without the stems, many of which have weathered in the rain.

I bought poppies for family members in the belief that we would receive the poppy head together with a stem and the washers so that we could reconstruct them for our own memories. I don’t care if the stems have weathered – in fact, it would add to their authenticity.

Fiona Todd
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Following our visit to the truly breathtaking display at the Tower of London, we tried, unsuccessfully, to buy one of the ceramic poppies.

We fully understand the significance of limiting the number of poppies to 888,246 for this work of art, but we would urge the artist and organisers to continue producing and selling poppies until public demand is sated. Not doing so will lead to the inevitable profiteering that will take place via online auction sites.

Tony Hunter
Solihull, West Midlands

SIR – While my wife and I were visiting the beautiful poppy display, the woman standing next to us observed: “I wonder what will happen to them all? I suppose some will end up on eBay.”

Those who may not wish to keep their poppy on the mantelpiece for ever could indeed re-sell it, donating the proceeds to the Royal British Legion and other charities.

A single poppy could thus generate donations totalling many times its original £25 price, while giving others a chance to take part in this unique tribute.

Stephen Kemp
Tilton on the Hill, Leicestershire

State-run banks

SIR – Extra taxes, regulation and demands for much greater capitalisation are unlikely to make banks attractive to investors. It is the people and banking culture that need to be reformed.

If we fire at the wrong targets we will find that there are precious few investors prepared to put their money into banks, whether as depositors or shareholders.

We are in danger of ending up with state-run banks that direct business according to the political colour of the current government. Is this what the authorities are really aiming for?

Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

SIR – As the wonders of electronic banking were ushered in through the door of the finance industry, the morals were ushered out through the window.

Time for a clear-out.

J A Whitmore

SIR – Shakespeare has Dick the Butcher, accomplice of Jack Cade, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, say: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

If Shakespeare were alive today would he write: “We’ll sort out the bankers”?

Denis Durkin
Lewes, East Sussex

SIR – The bankers involved in the foreign-exchange scandal would, perhaps, do well to heed the report of the Committee of the House of Lords on the Causes of Commercial Distress: “The best banking system may be defeated by imperfect management; and, on the other hand, the evils of an imperfect banking system may be greatly mitigated, if not overcome, by prudence, caution, and resolution.”

The date of this report? 1848. It would appear that some things never change.

David Hearn
Wallasey, Wirral

Conservative chaos

SIR – It is unfair to blame the Speaker for Monday’s chaos in the Commons.

The fault lies squarely with the Government. It controls business and decides the motions that are debated. It cannot, therefore, reasonably complain if the motions it sets down for debate are not wide enough to discuss matters it believes to be relevant.

Indeed the Speaker was generous in the latitude that he allowed to the Home Secretary. The normal Commons rule is that debate must be strictly on the subject set down on the order paper. Anything else is disorderly and members are regularly stopped by the Speaker and his deputies if they wander from the central point.

The Government was warned on Friday by the chairmen of two select committees, one a Eurosceptic the other a strong pro-European, that the procedure it intended to adopt would not cover the European Arrest Warrant. The Government chose to ignore this and similar warnings and has no right to squeal when it has been found out.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (Con)
London SW1

Petit Prince comet

Photo: ESA/Getty

SIR – I am sure my sense of déjà-vu on seeing the photograph taken from the Philae lander of the 67P comet was shared by generations of aficionados of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella Le Petit Prince.

Christopher Prince
Stocksfield, Northumberland

SIR – Congratulations to the brilliant scientists who, after its 10-year journey, touched down the Philae lander on the 67P comet. Maybe these brilliant minds could now give thought to redesigning my small tea pot, which persists in pouring most of the contents on to the tray and just a little into my cup.

Peter Dace
Cuffley, Hertfordshire

The most versatile of British film actors

Photo: Allstar/MGM

SIR – While I greatly admire Michael Caine’s considerable talent, I cannot accept Anne Billson’s judgment (Arts, November 12) that he is “the best, most important, and most versatile film star that Britain has ever produced”.

In terms of quality and quantity, and extraordinary versatility, no British star can match the record of John Mills, who appeared in more than 120 films. He played with distinction the widest possible variety of characters, ranging from heroic figures, such as the title character in Scott of the Antarctic, to an Oscar-winning performance as the village idiot in Ryan’s Daughter.

John Cottrell
Addlestone, Surrey

One-stop supermarket

SIR – I see Sainsbury’s is considering letting out concessions in some of its larger stores to make better use of the selling space.

May I suggest it could do much worse than incorporate an Aldi in each of its stores. It would make our shopping expeditions so much easier, as we still prefer Sainsbury’s multi-seed bread, and its car parks are so much more commodious.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – So now we see the Sinn Féin strategy (“Dáil adjourned until Tuesday after Mary Lou McDonald sit-in”, November 13th). Obliterate all embarrassing talk of cover-ups of sex crimes by creating a big diversionary noise elsewhere. Mary-Lou McDonald, by her sit-in in Leinster House, has displayed Sinn Féin’s contempt for democracy and a cynical disregard for the electorate. – Yours, etc,


Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – If the Ceann Comhairle cannot stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen. If the media is going to vilify a TD that dares to challenge the status quo, then we are left with a culture of deference that benefits nobody except the establishment. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – One person took it upon herself to tear up the rules and destroy the ability to function of the forum chosen by the electorate of this democratic republic to represent and make decisions on behalf of all citizens. That is totalitarian intolerance for democratic procedures and should be stated to be such. Instead what has happened is that much of the media coverage has made that person a celebrity. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – Having spent decades supporting an armed terrorist campaign that tried to shut down the Dáil, Sinn Féin has finally succeeded in doing so – for a day, at least. Ms McDonald’s behaviour this week gives a good flavour of what we can expect if Sinn Féin is ever elected to government.

Most rational observers would agree that the level of parliamentary oversight which the Dáil has over the Government remains a joke in comparison to other national parliaments. However, some parliamentary oversight is better than none. If Sinn Féin was happy to shut down the Dáil for a full day while in opposition, just a day after its own conduct, past and present, was exposed to sharp parliamentary oversight, then I doubt it would have any compunction about doing so if it were ever elected to government.

In the British House of Commons or the US Houses of Congress if a member was ordered to leave and refused to do so, they would be physically dragged out of the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms. A similar rule applies in the Dáil; however, according to media reports, the Captain of the Guard did no more than politely ask Ms McDonald to leave the chamber. Would a male member have been treated with kid-gloves in this way? Ms McDonald has been quick to use her gender to deflect criticism in the past, resisting objections to her populist grandstanding with cries of “sexism”. It seems that she was allowed to get away with her conduct this week on the basis that she would do likewise on this occasion. – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – Mary-Lou McDonald has been accused by the the Ceann Comhairle of causing “reputational damage to the institution” (ie Dáil Éireann). Is this because she actually bothered to be present in the chamber and then had the impertinence to demand an answer from a Minister to the question asked, behaviour which, of course, cannot be allowed to continue for fear it undermines Irish democracy as we know it? – Yours, etc,


Naul, Co Dublin.

Sir, – If Sinn Féin forms the next government it will only be because power was handed to it by those who abdicated it by refusing to govern properly. – Yours, etc,


Howth, Dublin 13.

Sir, – The president and vice-president of Sinn Féin both recently announced their intention to break the law on water charges, notwithstanding that the law in question has been approved democratically by the Oireachtas. Now, that party’s vice-president refuses to abide by the vote of Dáil members on her suspension from the House. For me, this calls into question the commitment of Sinn Féin to democracy. – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is not difficult to detect a tone of ambivalence in Government at the prospect of having the responsibility of marking the centenary of perhaps the seminal event of Irish national self-determination. It would seem that what should be an opportunity to reassert and celebrate with confidence the legitimate declaration and establishment of the sovereignty of the Irish people is in fact being played out as a dubious privilege.

It is true one cannot ignore the complexity of Ireland’s journey to nationhood nor the fact that some, even today, struggle to accept the fact or desirability of Irish independence. It is nonetheless a reality.

A European friend observed to me recently how strange it was that the Irish were so uncertain about celebrating periodically what most nations boast of constantly.

I fervently hope we shall as a people in all our rich diversity compensate for the prevailing and governing political ambivalence toward the forthcoming centenary with an enthusiastic celebration of our nationhood and leave apologies to those who will inevitably mess up the logistics. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Could someone representing the 1916 relatives please explain to the rest of us citizens why exactly they see themselves as being so important to the upcoming commemoration? There doesn’t seem to be a plan or programme of activities announced that does not have this group pontificating or complaining about it.

It goes without saying that none of these relatives were actually there during the Rising. They played no part in it, yet because of their bloodline they feel themselves entitled to lecture the rest of us mere citizens and indeed the Government on what should and should not be done. Giving a special place to citizens just because of an accident of birth is the antithesis of republicanism. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

A chara, – The only surprise so far is that the Government is not planning to commemorate the 1916 Rising on April 1st, 2016. – Is mise,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – I note with some trepidation that the military parade on Easter Sunday 2016 will be led by relatives of those who participated in the Rising. What will be the dress code for the marchers? Military uniforms or leprechaun outfits with Google, Facebook and Twitter insignia? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – Frank McDonald concludes his article on Dun Laoghaire’s new and controversial library with, “In time, the controversy over how it came about will be forgotten” (“Why I love Dún Laoghaire Library”, Saturday, November 8th).

I’m not so sure. Dublin Corporation’s “bunkers” on Wood Quay, also referenced in Mr McDonald’s article, are far from forgotten and not just by those of us who fought with such energy to try and stop them. The Civic Office bunkers stand today as they have since completion 35 years ago, a brutal insult to the Liffey riverfront and to the city, a monument to the arrogance of Dublin Corporation and to the deliberate destruction of our Viking heritage. No hazy sentimentality can airbrush such a carbuncle from the cityscape, no matter how long they stand. I predict Dún Laoghaire Rathdown’s new library, built with the same arrogance, will earn the same opprobrium.

What is the purpose of architecture in a town like Dun Laoghaire? There are the one-off buildings, such as the new library or the council’s own offices, the idea of building as sculpture. Then there is the architecture of the vernacular, the day-to-day buildings where we live, shop and do business and which make up the fabric of the streets and squares of our towns and cities. Many such beautiful streets have somehow survived in Dún Laoghaire, made up of low-rise buildings, built to an attractive human scale and giving a great sense of enclosure and cohesion.

But Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council can only envisage one-off “spectaculars”, alone and contemptuous of their environment, while the rest of the town, particularly the main shopping streets, slip into vacancy and dereliction. Businesses are crippled with enormous county council rates so that vanity projects such as the new library might be developed. As Mr McDonald states, “no expense has been spared” and the final €37 million bill for the library, a figure which few in the town believe, and with enormous ongoing running costs, will remain a burden which ratepayers and taxpayers must bear into the distant future.

The new library may indeed be beautiful on the inside but its exterior is what the people will see every day. It is a constant and expensive reminder of when the Celtic Tiger briefly visited Dún Laoghaire. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I hear that the initial pictures of the Dún Laoghaire library building, taken from the spacecraft Philae on Comet 67P, are quite flattering. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Prostitution has occurred in all societies throughout recorded history. Some countries prohibit it, some permit it and regulate it as a business. In either event, prostitution continues. When we criminalise the transaction (by either party), it must hide from the law, so it goes underground. Neither provider nor user now has the protection of the law, and prostitutes are exposed to criminal intermediaries who can coerce them, confiscate earnings and physically abuse them. Because the business in Ireland is invisible to the law, anything goes. Women can be trafficked and enslaved, working conditions can be vile, health and hygiene precautions can be ignored. Intensifying the legal prohibition will serve only to make this worse. – Yours, etc,


Wicklow Town.

Sir, –To date the majority of people discussing the future of sex workers in Ireland do not, and have never sold sex in any way and never will, with the understandable result that most of them are mistaken about the facts of the issue.

I do not believe that there is any moral justification for the issue to proceed further without an opportunity for people who have worked in the sex industry to challenge those misconceptions autonomously and on equal terms in public debate, something with which, to date, the main protagonists have declined to engage.

If it concerned any other subculture or social group this state of affairs would be considered appalling.

Because of the stigma attached to sex work, it is hard for sex workers to feel comfortable engaging with such a process, but stigma should not cancel out human rights. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The Irish Times continues to give coverage to those who are against the “whip” in political life (“Spare the whip”, Editorial, November 7th).

As someone who once “lost the whip”, on Dublin City Council, I understand fully the need for party discipline in ensuring the smooth running of our democracy and political structures. Those who advocate otherwise are usually commentators and not practitioners.

I broke the whip, which I do not regret, and took the consequences. This took the form of serving as an Independent member of the council for 18 months. During that time I was, of course, free to take any position I wanted on any issue – and did. It was also the case that I could no longer automatically assume the support of my Labour colleagues on issues of key importance to me and my constituents. It was, in that respect, the most enjoyable, but least productive, time I have spent as an elected councillor.

The whip exists to ensure some degree of stability. It provides for stronger leadership and decision-making. It is a freely decided decision to seek a party nomination and accept the whip – after that, if you join the game you obey the rules. Conscience applies to many issues and not just the highly emotive ones. And even after losing the whip all is not lost. Ten years after doing so I became leader of the group that I was once thrown out of. I am, of course, not encouraging any of my present colleagues to follow that lead. – Yours, etc,


Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

A chara, – Judging from the letters on this topic from Raymond Deane and Dr John McLachlan (November 12th), the series on “Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks” (November 8th) has already been a success after just one instalment.

Surely the point of a series such as this is to celebrate the included works and debate the merits of those absent? I, for one, will enjoy following, and discussing the series over the coming months. – Is mise,


Midlothian, Scotland.

Sir, – The debacle over “Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks” and the absence of classical music is probably not the fault of the perpetrators at The Irish Times and the Royal Irish Academy.

They are guilty of what the Catholic Church calls invincible ignorance, the doctrine proposing that even those who have not heard of salvation can be redeemed by good works.

But knowledge is still preferable to ignorance, and to have to exculpate the sinners on the basis that they didn’t, and don’t, know any better is humiliating for our country, its culture – and them. – Yours, etc,


Royal Irish

Academy of Music,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Ian Lindsay (November 7th) points out that “all we need to do is have the people who write letters to The Irish Times run the country”. Declan Kelly agrees; Dermot O’Rourke does not (November 8th).

Oscar Wilde would support Mr O’Rourke: “I am afraid that writing to newspapers has a deteriorating influence on style. People get violent and abusive and lose all sense of proportion, when they enter that curious journalistic arena in which the race is always to the noisiest” (Scots Observer, August 16th, 1890).

PG Wodehouse would support Messrs Lindsey and Kelly: “I yearn to write letters to the papers. All authors do. Novelists are merely those who have failed as contributors to the Correspondence Column. Unable to make the grade, they drop down a rung on the ladder and write novels” (St Petersburg Times, May 13th, 1951). – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – If Marian Quinn (November 13th), writing from Arranmore Island in Donegal, thinks she has an inferior broadband service compared to the mainland, then I’m happy to tell her that the grass is certainly not any greener here. I live 28km outside Dublin and my broadband speed this afternoon was a princely 1.5Mb/s. Fibreoptic cable? Workable internet would suffice. – Yours, etc,



Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I notice a lot of water meter installations going on, but see that Irish Water has not yet installed any water recycling systems in these same houses? Would this not make perfect sense, and help to curb the national outcry?

Perhaps that’s it, it makes too much sense. – Yours, etc,


Saggart, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Is there any way that our elected representatives in Dail Eireann would stand back for a moment and reflect on what their representation of the citizens of this country actually entails?

Thankfully, we still live in a democracy and at every general election we get the chance to decide who will represent us.

Following elections we as genuine republicans (ie citizens who accept and abide by our Constitution and laws) wait to see what collaboration of TDs will group together to form a majority and control our Dail. Whatever our opinions, we accept that the majority of TDs shall rule. As citizens we continue to abide by our laws and contribute socially and financially to our country.

Politicians put themselves forward for election because they want to be leaders of our country. As we have learned to our cost in recent years the decisions that even a couple of them make does have a huge effect on all of us. Their responsibility to the citizens of this country should not be taken lightly.

Our Government has decided that Irish households should pay for the water that they receive from the newly-created utility, Uisce Eireann. People in Ireland do not – and should not – expect to receive treated water for free forever. Water charges should be based on actual costs, like all utilities – and not on how much the Government believe will be politically acceptable.

The Department of Social Protection is there to assist those who cannot afford all of the charge. As can be seen in the Dail and on the streets, our Government’s indecision is fuelling an anti-everything movement and creating a platform for wannabe future politicians who will be elected on an anti-everything mandate.

In recent days the behaviour of some of our TDs in the Dail can only be compared to that of playschool kids. On Wednesday one Deputy came in to tell everyone that she had a list of eight people allegedly involved in serious crimes, but she wasn’t telling the Dail who they were.

On Thursday another asked that if somebody didn’t pay for what they were supposed to would that be okay. When the question went unanswered she proceeded to sulk and caused proceedings to be suspended.

The Government representative answering Thursday’s questions was either unable or afraid to answer the simple question. I am not trying to make light of any of the Deputy’s remarks or the serious issues, but if our toddlers behaved in a similar fashion we would correct them.

People want leadership and certainty and to see our leaders “of the people, by the people and for the people” govern this great little nation.

We all understand that politics is somewhat of a game, but you can’t keep playing the politics game all of the time. Every politician will be tripping over each other to be in the front row for the upcoming 1916 centenary commemoration.

Maybe if they study the history of the time they will see the great sacrifices made for this country, but also that poor communication and indecisiveness existed in 1916. Show us some real leadership and get things done. You may be surprised by the results.

Kieran McEvoy

Cullohill, Co Laois

Donna captures nation’s mood

Donna Hartnett’s impassioned, compelling letter (Irish Independent, November 11) has really struck a chord with people and captured the immense frustrations of ordinary families facing the onslaught of wave upon wave of taxes and bills.

The Irish people have taken so many austere measures on the chin already, but introduction of water charges has simply pushed too many of us too far. It has been the catalyst that has seen more than 100,000 of us across the nation taking to the streets to protest this latest assault on our already meagre means.

We always understood that domestic water was paid for out of general taxes, but it turns out the money wasn’t invested in maintaining the network. Who’s responsible for that? Not ordinary people. Yet we’re unjustly expected to pay again.

Exactly where does Mr Kenny suggest we find the money to pay TWICE anyway? Would it be at the expense of feeding or clothing our kids? Heating our homes? Paying health insurance, home insurance or life insurance? The list goes on. It really does come down to this for many of us: What else are we prepared to sacrifice? The simple fact of it is that most of us just don’t have any more to give.

Mr Kenny says he’s listening. But yet he keeps bleating on about allowances and affordable water charges. The concessions won’t work this time. He really needs to listen and look to those who have benefited the most in successive budgets: the millionaires and big businesses availing of generous tax arrangements.

It’s time to start redressing this imbalance instead of continuing to squeeze the poor, the vulnerable and hard-working struggling families. This protest is about injustice as much as it’s about our water.

Paul Hogan

Mountmellick, Co Laois

Low antics in the lower house

In reference to Mary Lou McDonald’s velcro-style stubbornness in the Dail the other day. There was nothing to praise, it was hard to see the point of it other than a distraction.

For my own part, I didn’t vote for any candidate or party the last time.

I was born in 1976 and the truth is, at this stage, I’m bored stiff of the talking shop. The proceedings at Leinster House unfold like ‘Muppet Show’ style segments, their only purpose is to fill time in the Dail.

At the same time, the nation’s children are still being raised daily like hens in creches nationwide as we speak.

We have a leader of the house who, in my opinion, comes across as a silly shrill referee of some sort comparable to a character on Fr Ted.

As all this unfolds Sinn Fein are still pushing financial figures that they think will work, but the realists like me believe it’s Disneyland economics.

Tax the rich they say… The rich will just transfer the wealth to the wife or to a different jurisdiction.

In any event Sinn Fein have more excess baggage than any Ryanair flight could possibly manage – or fine – at this stage. Then again, the whole management system in my lovely Ireland is now more Mick the Bull instead of the steady hand that populates the halls of Westminster.

I am setting these thoughts down as a disillusioned squeezed middle-income single-earner in Waterford city.

Eamon Dunphy was probably right when he said this county is a kip… for lads my age anyways.

David O’Connor

Dunmore Road, Waterford city

It took long enough to coerce Sinn Fein into the Dail.

Now we can’t get them out.


Killian Foley-Walsh

Kilkenny city

The haves and the have-nots

Eunan McNeill asks if people who holiday abroad, spend huge amounts on alcohol and buy new cars are the same people who now say they cannot afford the water charges.

Perhaps he should ask himself if it is possible the people who cannot pay for water are in fact not the same people at all?

John Williams

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent

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